A Garden of Edimentals

Linda Wiggin-Kraft

By Linda Wiggen Kraft

What is an edimental, you may ask. It is a word combination of edible and ornamental. Garden plants are usually classified as one or the other. Plants that are grown for their beauty only are called ornamentals. Plants that are grown to be eaten, are called edible. Usually edible means eaten by humans, but it can be also mean eaten by a garden creature. Seeds left on plants to be eaten by birds can also be an edible. Leaves eaten by monarch butterflies as they chew away milkweed (asclepias) leaves can be an edible plant. Even nectar eaten by bees, butterflies and birds is an edible plant for them.

Gardening during most of our lifetimes has been dominated by ornamental plants. Gardens have been thought of as only pleasurable for human eyes. For most garden plants, looking good has been their only job. They are the ones in our front gardens. Edibles have been relegated to the back yard in a vegetables only garden. Fortunately we are waking up to the realization that garden plants serve many more purposes than just wining a beauty contest. Many edibles are also beautiful and deserve a place in our front gardens.

How do we find edimental plants that are both ornamental and edible? As gardeners we can begin to see beyond the beauty of a plant and learn how it offers nourishment to others with its flowers, foliage, seeds or roots. These are plants that can be considered for the front garden.

There are usually three tiers of plant heights for our gardens. The short, middle and tall plants. There are also different types of edibles. Those for humans, birds, bees and insects. Consider both the height and type of edible when planting.

What are possible short edimentals, those that can be planted in the front?
For human nourishment some examples are swiss chard with brightly colored foliage. Some of the leaves can be harvested and more will grow. Lemon gem marigolds have a citrus flavor that perks up salads and is loved by pollinators.

Pollinators also love the cloud of small flowers that are produced by calamint plants. Medium sized edimentals examples are bee balm (monarda) and purple coneflower (echinacea). Monarda leaves and flowers can be made into tea and is a pollinator plant. Echinacea is an edible for birds, especially goldfinches when the seeds are ripe. Its leaves and flowers can also be made into teas. Tall edimentals include the amaranths. These are tall plants that produce seed heads full of many edible tiny seeds. The foliage and flowers come in many colors. The birds love the ripe seeds, which can also be collected for cereal or flour. The leaves can be eaten off the plant too. And they love the summer heat.
This garden year, find edimental plants that are both beautiful and nourishing for all creatures that love garden plants.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a landscape designer who creates holistic and organic gardens. She is also a mandala artist and creativity workshop leader. Her blog and website are at: www.CreativityForTheSoul.com. Her # is (314) 504-4266.