This article was published originally on 5/12/2010
As you update your landscape this spring, consider using plants that are edible. There are many trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants that have tasty and beautiful rewards. The term for this specialty gardening is edible landscaping and can be likened to the home landscape version of permaculture, which means permanent agriculture.
Fruit trees are the obvious place to begin. Many apple, cherry and pear cultivars are well suited to Iowa conditions. For more information on maintaining fruit trees, see ISU Publications PM453, Fruit Cultivars for Iowa and PM1083, Why Fruit Trees Fail to Bear. Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) is another fruit-bearing tree that is particularly well suited to a home landscape. It can withstand partial shade but still produce mild blueberry-like fruit. The early bloom and nice reddish-orange fall color are also attractive features.
Raspberries, blackberries and other brambles flourish in many parts of Iowa. Take care to place them in areas where their spreading habits won't be a problem. Blueberries are another popular option although growing them takes a little more preparation, which is discussed in ISU Publication RG503, Growing Blueberries in Iowa. Aronia berries have recently become a popular choice for gardeners due to the health benefits of the fruit. These shrubs are easy to maintain in almost any growing conditions.
Even herbaceous plants with edible parts can be incorporated into the home landscape. If you need a large leaved foliage plant to accent your perennial bed, consider planting rhubarb or horseradish. Well-placed vegetables can be used in annual flower beds. Even flowers with edible blooms such as nasturtium or pansy can be incorporated into the landscape.
Adding edibility to your landscape can be as simple as planting a grape to climb an arbor or a fence. The most rewarding part is being able to eat what is produced in your own landscape.