While there’s a definite rustic glamour in a lush, productive backyard vegetable patch, the days of relegating edibles to the kitchen garden are over. Bringing berries—from the summertime trifecta of strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, to more unusual such as gooseberries, elderberries and grapes (yes, grapes are technically berries)—into the landscape, from tucking them into mixed beds and borders and against fences either solo or behind perennials to clambering up walls, or as full-on hedges, combines beauty and practicality.
Selecting the right cultivar for the usage is key. Some shrubs make great foundation plantings, while others will sprawl and spread and are better as informal hedges. Decide what you’re going for, then as long as you have plenty of sun and can provide regular water, you can have an edible space. Here are five ways to integrate berry-making plants into your yard.
As a privacy-making, bird-loving, edible hedgerow
If you want a hedge to create a garden room, define property boundaries, or screen the neighbors, look no further than taller berry-producing shrubs such as blueberry, American cranberry, Red Lake currants, or brambles that put out naturally standing or erect, long canes such as many varieties of blackberry and raspberry. Just be sure to consider the ultimate height of the hedge you’re growing. While they can be trimmed, most edible hedges will look their best, and produce the most fruit, if allowed to grow to their natural height. Also, most berry-making plants are deciduous, so if privacy is critical, be sure to combine with evergreen shrubs. These are lovely:
|Red Lake Currant||American Cranberry Viburnum||Pixwell Gooseberry|
As an “I’m so elegant” espalier on a fence, wall, or trellis
Some varieties of raspberries and boysenberries put out long (often 5’ or longer) canes which are so pliable that they can be trained on a trellis against a wall in patterns or tied onto an existing fence. While they want to grow wild, grape vines can also be similarly trained. To create a clean, linear pattern, simply select the strongest canes or vines and prune away others as necessary. While you’ll be sacrificing fruit, you will have a French-garden inspired look that’s both unique and delicious. These will work:
|Fall Gold Raspberries||Himrod Grape||Thornless Boysenberry|
As an unexpected groundcover
Low growing edibles strawberries and some lingonberries and blueberries can fill in spaces under trees and shrubs, grow along walkways, or be used in the front of flower beds. Edible ground covers are also great for small space gardens where maximizing the available growing area is essential. Unlike woody herbs (which also make excellent edible groundcovers) most edible fruiting plants cannot withstand foot traffic. Plant them where they’ll be protected. Here are few to consider:
As a portable feast outside the kitchen door
Grabbing a handful of berries to toss into your morning cereal should be a right, not a privilege! Thanks to innovations over the last decade, there are now lots of choices for compact, low-to-medium height berry producing shrubs that are idea for containers which can be placed in sunny spots near the house. These produce a sizeable crop of full-sized berries, and many produce more than one crop in a season. One other benefit of growing in containers is that they’re easy to cover with netting if birds are an issue. If you have a very large container (24” or larger) they’re also fabulous mixed with perennials or shrubs such as compact roses. Try these:
As a wild, tumbling, romantic bramble patch
If you have a fairly large space (such as an area at the back of the property where you’re not overly concerned with things being neat and tidy) and want the maximum amount of fruit, you want a bramble patch. Brambles are generally raspberry and blackberry plants and while they can be persistent, even bullies in the yard, they can be tamed with proper pruning (good info here). What makes it worth the effort is how much fruit you’ll get and that a well-tended patch can last a very long time. These will do the business:
For more content and ideas, subscribe to Plant Savvy!
Lead image: GAP Photos/John Glover