I’ve been wondering about my flower gardens lately–asking myself why I put so much energy into those lovely blooms that buzz nicely with bees and birds and bugs and bunnies (and sometimes deer) and feed my eyes so magnificently but not my stomach. Perhaps I should rethink those beds, make them work harder.
Over in the nearby orchard I have flowers, too, after all, gorgeous flowers that in spring also buzz with the same creatures except for the deer, thanks to the fence. But these flowers become edible fruit and nuts: cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, apples, plums, hazelnuts. And later on the stunning sunflowers and lavender will bloom–both to serve the kitchen as well as the animal life and our eyes. The berries, too, work hard, with their less showy but pretty blossoms for the pollinators and then their fabulous fruit and intense fall color.
So why not choose flowers and trees and bushes that do double duty–even in the flower borders? With the demands of my gardens and orchards at this time of year, I rarely have time to consider weeding the flower beds much less actually doing it. I’m beginning to think of them the way I do the lawns–perfectly fine as long as within reason., i.e. small and serving multiple purposes. Blueberries, for instance. They make lovely foundation plantings, bush cherries, too. Hazelnuts planted 3 – 6 feet apart form an incredible, edible hedge, packed as they are with nutrients. Nut pines –I’ve just planted Swiss and Korean varieties– can take the place of the other kinds of evergreens we plant for year- round green. And I’ll be able to pick my own pine nuts for all sorts of Italian dishes and desserts! Blackberries –right now they’re covered with tender leaves for tea and with white flowers that will turn to delectable fruit in August. And the list goes on.
While I do love the peonies and poppies that are beginning to bloom, and the delphiniums and hollyhocks and iris, and will certainly keep growing them for variety and their good looks, in the spirit of a permaculture garden, I think that as spaces open up in the flower borders, I will choose to plant beautiful perennial edibles.