Recently, the Spring Symposium of the Master Gardener Association of Cape Cod featured horticulturalist and author Brie Arthur, an energetic speaker whose topic was Foodscaping. If that word is unfamiliar, don’t worry—the concept is relatively straightforward: integrating edible plants into traditional ornamental landscapes.
There are various reasons to Foodscape, like biodiversity, aesthetics, HOA rules that don’t allow for traditional raised garden beds, and even architecture—the idea of using ornamental plants like hibiscus or hydrangea to support tomatoes. All these are great reasons, but my favorite is to use foodscaping to deter unwanted ground mammals (rabbits, voles, moles, chipmunks) and deer from browsing your plants, which is a common complaint of Pinehills gardeners.
Consider a world where we annually planted culinary herbs like basil, arugula, chive, parsley, tarragon, and cilantro throughout flower beds. The herbs are pretty, they will likely get the supplemental water they don’t get in a pot, AND it will indefinitely close down Bambi and Peter’s garden buffet! You don’t necessarily have to harvest all the herbs—let them bolt. They will flower and nicely fill the open mulch space in your garden.
Another approach is to pot up peppermint or spearmint plants and place them in the areas most visited by the bunnies. (Don’t plant mint in the ground as it is invasive). Many people know that mint spray can temporarily deter rabbits. But for successful use, you must respray after each rainfall or when your plant grows a new leaf. Just not as practical as brightening up your beds with a variety of potted mints. Brie also mentioned two native perennials that do similar work without invasive tendencies: Agastache foeniculum or Anise Hyssop and Pycnanthemum Muticum or Mountain Mint. Both are spread by rhizomes, so you can easily control growth. They are also both loved by pollinators.
Another hardy perennial herb native to our region is Allium—both flowering and edible. The flowering type comes in wide varieties (color, height, bloom time), doesn’t mind our sandy soil, and can easily be planted at the base of taller perennials that our critters feast on, like Echinacea and lilies. It also serves as a deterrent for pests like aphids. The generic term Allium is the Latin word for garlic, which will be the next addition to my perennial beds! Brie proposes planting hardstem or softstemgarlic to ward off our furry vampires. Garlic is easy to grow, you can store the bulbs for cooking, and if you raise the hardstemvariety, you can eat the scapes in the springtime.
Brie’s book, The Foodscape Revolution, goes well beyond herbs. She finds creative ways to incorporate leafy greens, tomatoes, and brassicas of all types into her perennial beds and pots with great benefit. I will be moving into prime planting season with greater insight into how to solve common garden issues simply and deliciously. How about you?
A few bullets from Brie’s handout: HOW TO FOODSCAPE
• Design around the sunniest areas—vegetables prefer full sun
• Vegetables need supplemental water, especially in summer
• Plant edibles or sow seeds directly in open mulch space
• Manage the entire landscape organically
For more information about Brie
Arthur, visit BrieGrows.com or follow @brietheplantlady on Instagram.
Lisa Remby has been a resident of The Pinehills since June 2020 and started the Garden Club in 2021 to meet new people through the shared love of plants and gardens. She earned her Master Gardener's certification in 2009 while living and working professionally in arts and tourism in Wisconsin. Now retired, you can find Lisa touring gardens near and far when she and her husband Aaron are not working in their own garden on Climber's Path.
Visit phgardenclub.blog for an updated Garden Club event schedule.