What Are Edimentals? What To Know About The Newest Garden Trend

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What Are Edimentals? What To Know About The Newest Garden Trend

Edimentals is a new gardening trend that combines the beauty of ornamental plants with the functionality of edible plants. The term is a combination of “edible” and “ornamental”, and it’s reshaping the way we view and use our gardens in a unique and sustainable way.

Stephen Barstow, one of the world’s leading experts in this niche domain, popularized the modern “edimental” idea through his blog and book, “Around The World In 80 Plants”. However, this concept isn’t entirely new; many traditional gardens have featured edible plants with ornamental value.

Edimentals encourage gardeners to think about both the visual appeal and the culinary use of their plants. Rainbow chard, for example, can add a splash of color to a flower bed, and its leaves are delicious in salads. This trend is especially practical in urban areas or small gardens with limited space, allowing gardeners to maximize their space by nurturing decorative and delicious plants.

Growing your food reduces your carbon footprint and gives you control over how your food is grown. Edimentals provide an educational opportunity for children to learn about where food comes from and the importance of plant life in a fun, hands-on way.

Blooming herb garden

JoannaTkaczuk/Shutterstock

When selecting plants for an edimental garden, you’re in luck, as you have no less than 20,000 species to choose from! That’s right — there are over 20,000 types of edible plants in the world. With an edimental garden, it’s all about plants that look good and taste good in your favorite recipes. Edimental plants can be annuals or perennials, shrubs or trees, and everything in between. When selecting your plants, it’s essential to consider your climate, the size of your garden, and your gardening skill level.

Among the most popular choices in edimental gardening are herbs like lavender, chives, sage, rosemary, and thyme. These herbs are culinary staples in many cuisines and add a fragrant and decorative touch to any garden space. Vegetables such as Swiss chard and kale, particularly the ornamental varieties, artichokes, french beans, and eggplants, are also favored for their vibrant colors and textures. They provide a visual feast in the garden and a literal one on the table — they’re also low-maintenance and incredibly nutritious.

Fruit trees and bushes like apples, pears, gooseberries, and currants are key players in the edimental space. These plants offer the double benefit of producing delicious fruits and being visually striking elements in garden design, especially when they bloom or change colors with the seasons. Additionally, edible flowers such as nasturtiums, marigolds, chamomile, and borage are increasingly popular for their dual role as both garnishes for dishes (or infusions for delicious teas!) and vibrant, eye-catching additions to garden beds.

How to design and care for your edimental garden

Many blooms in an edimental garden

Joannatkaczuk/Getty Images

Designing an edimental garden is an artful balancing act between aesthetics and practicality. To ensure year-round visual appeal, mix perennials with annuals and incorporate plants like evergreens alongside seasonal edibles. A thoughtfully planned scheme of colors, textures, and forms among the plants can harmonize the overall look. Practicality is also key — place frequently harvested plants like herbs and salad greens in accessible locations. By carefully selecting and positioning your plants, a functional edimental garden can bring joy and bounty throughout the year.

Caring for edimentals involves a blend of traditional gardening techniques and mindful practices tailored to their dual nature. Firstly, understanding the specific needs of each plant is crucial; some may thrive in abundant sunlight, while others prefer shaded areas. Herb spirals, special containers, and layered planting methods can help group plants with similar needs for more efficient care. Opt for organic gardening methods, especially since many edimentals will end up on your plate. Think natural — using non-toxic fertilizers and pest control to avoid harmful chemicals.

Regular harvesting is key. It will provide fresh produce for your meals and also encourage further growth and vitality of the plants. Keep in mind that the health and appearance of your edimental plants are equally important, as their ornamental value is a significant aspect of their appeal. With these considerations, your edimental garden can flourish, providing both aesthetic beauty and a harvest of fresh, home-grown edibles for a sustainable and enriching gardening practice.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.