Edimental Education With Leitner’s Garden Center

Both edible and beautiful, these plants add ornamental appeal to every landscape

Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock/k.a

Madeline Park

Ever heard of “edimentals”? Neither had we, until recently, at least. It’s a playful, combined spin on the words “edible” and “ornamental,” and they have plenty of perks in home gardens and landscapes—from decorating a yard to bringing in loads of fresh produce. Madeline Park of Leitner’s in St. Paul knows the extent of the benefits well, and here, she offers advice on how to make the most of these beautiful, palatable plants.

Tell us about your favorite edimentals.

Artichokes are a pollinator’s dream plant! I let my artichokes bloom every season, which just means I stop harvesting the buds, and the blooms are a really beautiful purple-blue color. Artichokes are a good drought-tolerant option, too.

Blueberries are great for full- to part-sun areas and have nice color all season long: They bloom in late spring, have blueberries by August, and then turn a nice maroon or orange in the fall. Grapes are very easy to establish—some might argue they are too easy and end up covering more area than the average gardener might want. I think they work great for privacy screening on chain link fences or growing along an arbor.

Lastly, rhubarb can be a total showstopper in the landscape, with a height of over 6 feet when it blooms. The large leaves make it seem almost tropical, plus it’s super hardy and is one of the first things to start popping out of the ground in spring.

How do I incorporate edible plants into my existing landscape?

I like to mix my edible plants right in with my perennial gardens. Artichokes look lovely next to Russian sage; strawberry plants and chamomile can grow as a beautiful border; and dill and asparagus are gorgeous additions to the back of gardens since they get nice and tall. Even throwing pumpkin or squash seeds over your compost or scrap pile can be an easy way to encourage more produce in an area you otherwise might not landscape.

What if I don’t have any room for more plants?

If a gardener already has an existing, full landscape, incorporate edimentals in potted arrangements. I often put herbs and lettuce in my front pots. The lettuce pairs wonderfully with pansies. In the summer, I use rosemary or sage as a foliage among my flowering annuals. I recommend using herbs that won’t grow too quickly (such as cilantro or parsley) for this technique. There are also some edible flowers I like to use, such as nasturtiums. Nasturtiums have wonderful circular leaves, and the blooms are most commonly a bright red or orange. They are a trailing plant, so I use them in window boxes.

Do you have any other advice?

Like any plants (especially new plants), keeping them well-watered throughout the season is key. With the recent droughts we’ve been facing, I recommend investing in a rain barrel, using soaker hoses, and mulching. The rain barrel will help conserve water, the soaker hose will ensure the water goes directly to the base of the plant, and the mulch helps the soil stay moist.

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