Get your graze on

Published 9:33 pm Saturday, February 20, 2016

If limited time or garden space challenges you to decide between your ornamental landscape and a vegetable or fruit garden, you may want to look at both of these areas from a new perspective.

The concept of incorporating edible plants into an ornamental garden is not new. Many of us are already doing it. Adding a pot of rosemary or parsley to your patio certainly qualifies. Most any perennial or annual herb or vegetable is great for containers or a border and can be beautiful as well as tasty.

Lately, I have been looking at edible fruiting shrubs with a fresh eye. There are many choices and, some make excellent accents or specimens while others are best used as a screen.

There are benefits other than culinary to these edible garden additions. Many of the selections offer attractive foliage, fall color, interesting blooms, intriguing winter branching structure in addition to fruit packed with vitamins.

Scientific research indicates that what tastes good is also good for you. Take a stroll through your garden and harvest a hand full of fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.

The plants you decide to add will depend on the space you have available, the amount of sunlight and whether or not you like to eat them!

A few of my favorites include:

• Loquat or Japanese Plum – Eriobotrya japonica – Small evergreen tree with fragrant flowers in autumn and juicy orange, pear-shaped fruit ripening in the spring. Loquat makes an excellent accent or specimen. The coarse textured foliage lends a tropical flair to the landscape.

• Pineapple Guava — Feijoa sellowiana — Medium-sized evergreen shrub with blue-green foliage; showy pink flowers in the spring and pineapple-flavored fruit ready by summer. Use Pineapple Guava for a hedge or screen.

• Pomegranate — Punica granatum — Small deciduous tree; bright orange, yellow or white flowers; golf ball to softball size fruit. There are many cultivars of pomegranate — size, fruit and flower color vary. Pomegranate is a tough little tree that makes a terrific accent or patio plant.

• Rabbiteye Blueberry — Vaccinium ashei — Medium-sized, semi-evergreen shrub. Silvery-blue foliage; pinkish-white flowers; summer fruit; outstanding fall color. Rabbiteye’s will fruit better if you purchase more than one variety and these can be chosen to extend the fruiting season. Use as a screen or hedge.

• Common Fig — Ficus carica — Large deciduous shrub or small tree. Coarse textured foliage is an interesting contrast in the garden. ‘Celeste’ is cold hardy and a good home garden selection.

These trees and shrubs provide not only culinary rewards but significant visual ones too. All of them have beautiful foliage, flowers and fruit. None have serious insect or disease pests, so chemicals are rarely necessary.

Liven up your ornamental landscape by adding a few plants you can graze on. Your local garden centers and nurseries are loaded with new stock. Give it a try — get your graze on — I guarantee you will love it.

Rebecca Bates is director of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Service. To contact her, call 601-835-3460.