Baxter County Master Gardener Program • University of Arkansas System • Division of Agriculture • © 2013 BCMG
One of the current trends is to incorporate edible plants into your flower beds not only is this a great use of garden space, it's practical. The same design principals are used when incorporating edible plants into the landscape to achieve a unified garden.
The most important design elements for an edible landscape are strong, firm lines and structure. The main goal is to put food on the table but the design element should also not be overlooked. Adding edibles to your garden design provides a greater mixture of textures, forms, and colors than a typical ornamental landscape. In order to counterbalance this mix of plants, it helps to almost over-emphasize the line and structure of your landscaping elements. A design consideration with edibles is the seasonal nature of the color-flowers, fruit, and/or foliage-and occasional times of reduced drama due to transplanting, harvesting, and soil cultivation. During these times, the importance of strong lines, as defined by pathways, patios, planters, hedges, evergreens, and structures, becomes evident. Long curving beds or inter-plantings of colorful flowering plants-edible or not-also help tie the design together and provide accents. Edible landscaping is more than just planting edibles, without the backbone of a good design, an edible landscape can become just a vegetable patch.
Rosemary A Great Edible Choice
I've decided I'm going to try to fit some herbs into the flower beds and Rosemary is a natural choice for this area of North Central Arkansas, the plant is deer proof and stays evergreen. So instead of planting Boxwoods for your foundation plantings think Rosemary.
The best variety for this area is winter hardy Rosmarinus officinalis 'Arp'. Discovered in Arp, Texas, by Madalene Hill of Hilltop Herb Farm in 1972. It's a Medium-high, open growth plant which benefits from frequent pruning. It has fragrant, thick gray-green leaves with light blue flowers in the spring. 'Arp' is known as the "winter hardy rosemary", since it's the hardiest variety available (will survive to -10°F). Mature plants can grow to about 5 feet tall and about as wide. If you don't want it to get this big, prune and use all the cuttings in your meals.
Rosemary needs a minimum 4 hours of direct sun for optimal growth and if you have clay soil it needs to be lightened up with compost or sand. Once planted it does not require any fertilizer and is very drought tolerant. It will do fine with as little as 12 inches of rain annually, but an inch a week will make it thrive.