by Connie Oswald Stofko
When we want to grow food, we generally think of smallish plants that we would categorize as “vegetables” or “herbs,” such as tomatoes or zucchini or parsley.
Today we’re going to challenge you to think bigger. When you think of food, think of trees and shrubs.
The concept is called edible landscapes, said Fred Safford, who is in charge of trees and shrubs at Lockwood’s Greenhouses, 4484 Clark Street, Hamburg. It’s a way to work with the environment rather than harming the environment.
It’s also called permaculture because trees are a permanent part of your landscape. Unlike vegetable plants such as tomatoes or zucchini that you have to plant every year, you plant a tree once and it continues to produce food.
Many gardeners have fruit trees such as apple, but you can also grow nuts on trees. Safford says that almonds, pecans and an edible chestnuts can be grown in Western New York.
And if you don’t have a lot of space, you can still enjoy fruit bushes. As we told you last year, there are smaller varieties of shrubs that you can try. Today we’ll introduce you to a blueberry bush that can grow in a pot.
As you make your plans for your landscape this year, explore some options for trees and shrubs that are more than decorative. Make room for food-producers. Here are some that will be available from Lockwood’s:
In the children’s song, the monkey chases a weasel all around a mulberry bush, but Safford said the mulberry is actually a tree. However, you can prune it to keep it in a hedge form.
On older varieties of mulberry, the berries are a half-inch long. On the new Illinois Everbearing mulberry,the berries are two to three inches long. They look like blackberries.
In addition to eating the fruit, you can harvest the leaves and sell them to a silk worm business, Safford said. Mulberry leaves are what those caterpillars eat.
This is a somewhat ornamental plant that looks similar to Fine Line rhamnus, a popular ornamental shrub, Safford said. The sea berry gets bright orange-red berries.
“I’ve heard mixed reviews of the taste,” Safford said. “Some people say it’s like having the flavor of a whole orange in one berry. Some say it’s acidic.”
In Europe, they use the berries for juice and, if the taste is too strong, you could water it down, he said.
“Its claim to fame is that it has strong anti-wrinkle properties,” Safford said. The fruit and oil pressed from the seeds are used in lotions.
You need a male and a female plant. Leikora, the female plant that Lockwood’s carries, gets six to eight feet tall. The male plant (which is simply referred to as a male sea berry) gets six to ten feet tall.
The sea berry shrub likes full sun and could probably tolerate a little shade.
‘Blueberry Glaze’ is a new variety that should please gardeners because not only does it produce fruit, it’s ornamental as well.
It looks like a boxwood, a popular shrub that is having problems right now with boxwood blight. It doesn’t appear that boxwood blight will be as devastating to boxwoods as downy mildew has been to impatiens, but gardeners may want to consider an alternative, Safford said.
Another appealing feature of Blueberry Glaze is its size. It’s small and compact, about two or three feet tall and wide. You can grow it in the ground, but you can also grow it in a pot on a patio.
You’re probably familiar with the children’s song that goes: “Picking up paw-paws; put ’em in a basket.” I sang it as a child and I sang it with my kids, but I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t realize a pawpaw was a real thing.
Pawpaw can refer to a tree as well as the fruit you get from that tree. The fruit is kind of like a green, oblong ball, Safford said. It’s soft and pulpy and tastes like banana custard or banana crème. It has big black seeds; you don’t eat the seeds.
The trees grow wild in Ohio and are easy to grow in our area, he said. They get an enormous amount of fruit.
The tree gets 30 to 50 feet tall. Plant it 30 feet away from your house.
“You don’t want those pawpaws hitting your house,” he said.
I didn’t know you could grow almonds around here, but Safford assures me you can.
Lockwood’s will carry ‘Prima’ and ‘Nikita’s Pride’, which he says are very hardy. They’re modified peach trees—they’re grown on peach rootstock. You need to have two different kinds of almond trees for good pollination.
These varieties are semi-dwarf and get 10 to 12 feet tall. You should plant them about 15 feet away from your house.
The hardy pecan, specifically Carya illinoinensis, is typically a southern tree, but it will grow here, Safford said. It’s a member of the hickory family.
It will get 30 to 40 feet tall, and to make sure you don’t have falling nuts hitting your house, plant it 30 feet away from your house.
Lockwood’s will be selling the ‘Colossal’ chestnut tree, which is a cross between Japanese and European chestnut trees. It will withstand the blight that killed so many American chestnuts. This tree gets an abundant crop.
The tree gets 30 to 40 feet tall and spreads, so you’ll want to plant it 20 or 30 feet from your house.