Three Incredible Edible Landscape Plants for California Landscapes
Landscape plants are an important material landscape architects use to enhance a project’s aesthetics and function. In addition to beauty, some plants can also spice up your client’s food. Several common plants used in California landscape plantings can also serve as culinary herbs and spices. Let’s look at three evergreen shrubs that are as useful on the table as they are in the landscape.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is an evergreen shrub that is native to the Mediterranean basin. The leaves are a pleasing dark green color and exude a delightfully earthy fragrance. On a hot day, the plant emits a delicate herbal fragrance. The fragrance is also activated when you brush up against the foliage. I can nearly resist touching rosemary when I walk by a planting of this evergreen herb.
Rosemary is an evergreen wood shrub with short, narrow dark green leaves that cover the plant. Sky-blue flowers bloom in winter and spring and attract bees. Occasionally, some stems will produce blossoms at odd times throughout the year.
There are two different forms of rosemary:
- Upright Rosemary
- Trailing Rosemary
Upright varieties grow to 6 feet tall but can be comfortably kept to 3 feet tall with a little pruning. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ is the most common upright rosemary cultivar and develops a rustic, irregular form as the plant matures.
Trailing rosemary is a dense but sprawling groundcover that reaches 2-3 feet tall and spreads 4 to 6 feet or more. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Huntington Carpet’ is a popular rosemary trailing selection and is a useful low-water use plant that can be used in front of or in between larger shrubs and trees.
Rosemary needs full sun (at least six hours) to grow well. This fine shrub tolerates coastal conditions and still thrives in the high and low deserts of California.
The bay tree (Laurus nobilis) is a small, evergreen tree or shrub that is native to the Mediterranean area. The leaves are very dark green and grow to about 3 inches long. Bay trees are versatile plants in the landscape. Left unprimed and allowed to grow unfettered, it becomes an upright tree that grows to 25 feet tall. However, the bay tree is very tolerant of pruning and can be maintained as a medium or large shrub. Since ancient times, bay tree has been clipped into topiary hedges and various shapes.
Grow bay tree in full sun and well-drained soil. Like most other plants from the Mediterranean basin, bay tree does not need lots of water to be happy. No special care is required for this useful species.
In addition to being a great addition to the water-conserving garden, bay tree also produces leaves that can be used to flavor a variety of culinary delicacies. Pick the leaves fresh and use immediately or harvest the leaves and dry them in a cool, dark place.
Most bay trees that are planted in gardens are the unimproved species. Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’ is an improved selection that has a nicer form and slightly better foliage.
Pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) is an evergreen shrub with that bears attractive flowers and exotic fruits. When trained as a shrub, pineapple guava can grow six or more feet tall and wide. However, pineapple guava is at its best and most majestic when trained as a multi-trundled small tree. With age, the branches becomes gnarled and develop a great deal of character.
Mauve or lavender flowers bloom during spring and summer with medium-sized green fruit maturing in summer and fall. Use the tropical-tasting fruit fresh or in juices.
Grow pineapple guava in full sun or with some afternoon shade in hot inland areas. This plant requires low to moderate amounts of supplemental irrigation.
Most plants sold are grown from seed which means the fruit quality is quite variable. Some nurseries propagate named selections that have superior fruit quality. ‘Coolidge’ and ‘Nazemetz’ are two named varieties that are available from speciality nurseries that produce delectably edible fruit.a
Edible Plants Make Good Landscape Plants
Rosemary, bay tree, and pineapple guava are three examples of edible plants that are also low-water use landscape plants. These plants feature attractive foliage and other useful aesthetic characteristics while providing flavor to the table. Look for opportunities to introduce multi-use plants in your next planting plan.