Hedges and living fences are useful in so many ways: They define spaces, mark property lines, increase privacy and block unsightly views. And yet, these perennials can still do more when we select plants that also provide tasty treats—ripe fruit that can be eaten out of hand and easily preserved for year-round flavor. Try these multitasking landscape plants that offer beauty and food.
Edible Fences, Arbors and Trellises
Do you have an existing chain-link fence or an arbor that could use a face-lift? Adding foliage to existing structures is an easy way to transform your yard while increasing shade, privacy and beauty. The following perennials need lots of support and room for vertical growth. If you don’t already have a spot for them, create one by adding lattice to a wall or installing a supportive fence or arbor.
This delicious fruit is one of the most widely cultivated in the world and grows from zones 3 to 9 (which includes most of the continental U.S.—find your plant hardiness zone from the USDA). Although it may take a few years to establish your vine, grape plants can produce large amounts of food, making good use of vertical space. Decide whether you want table or wine grapes, and select an appropriate variety for your climate, considering cold-hardiness, days to ripeness and pest tolerance.
Plant dormant, bare-root grapes either in the spring after risk of frost has passed or in the fall. Before planting, soak roots in water for two to three hours. Select a growing site in full sun and train grapes to grow up a support.
Unlike its commercially available cousin, the kiwi, the hardy kiwi can grow farther north in zones 5 to 9 and can tolerate colder temperatures. The fruit is the size of a large grape and isn’t covered in fuzz, so it can be eaten without peeling. Taste varies by variety.
This plant does not self-pollinate (except for the ‘Issai’ variety), so select at least one male for every nine female plants. Plant in full sun, but beware that spring sun in a southern exposure can cause plants to break dormancy prematurely. North-facing sites are often ideal. Plant in well-drained soil after the risk of frost has passed. Prune plants a few times a year: two or three times during the growing season and once during the winter.
The female flower of this plant has been used for centuries to preserve and flavor beer, and it makes a great, calming tea. This vigorous plant grows from zones 4 to 8 but does best between 38 and 51 degrees of latitude.
For the largest hop cones, plant with a southern exposure in well-drained soil. The plant will need lots of room for vertical growth, and some work is needed each year to contain the plant so it doesn’t take over. Plant after the risk of frost has passed.
Do you want to create a light screen or windbreak, define a property line or boost privacy? Before selecting plants, decide on the function of the hedge. The numerous edible options can serve a variety of purposes.
This is a good option if you want a rose that’s resistant to the common rose ailments yet is still pleasantly fragrant with thick foliage. Mature plants can sprawl and grow quite large, between 4 and 8 feet in height and 4 to 6 feet in width. This rose can engulf a small garden, so ensure ample space is available and remember that the plant bears thorns. This plant grows in zones 2 to 9, depending on the cultivar.
Plant in full sun to partial shade, ideally in sandy, light-textured soil. This rugged rose is virtually maintenance-free, but deadhead blossoms for a stronger secondary bloom and prune as needed to control growth. Pick ripe rose hips after the first frost in the fall, after they have turned bright orange or red. They are packed with vitamin C and can be used in jams and teas or infused in honey.
This low-maintenance deciduous shrub, also called seaberry, provides excellent wildlife habitat and produces yellow to red berries that are rich in vitamin C. These tart berries can be used to make wine, juice, jam, candy or sorbet. Plant 3 feet apart to form a fast-growing hedge. Unmanaged, some varieties can reach heights of 12 feet or more. This plant is suitable for zones 2 to 9, but for varieties that are not self-pollinating, plant at least one male for every five to six females.
Although mature plants are drought-resistant, seedlings require regular watering. This nitrogen-fixing plant can thrive in many soil types, except highly saturated soil, and requires full sun. It’s largely pest-resistant, although it tends to attract Japanese beetles.
This North American native grows between 8 and 15 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide. For a solid hedge, space plants 2 to 3 feet apart. It’s suitable for zones 2 to 6, and is self-fruitful—no other plants are needed for pollination.
Plant in full sun to partial shade in rich, loamy soil. This bush is not prone to most insect pests and is largely drought-resistant. Prune annually to maintain desired size. The antioxidant-rich fruit is often used in jams and sauces and is also popular with birds.
This North American native thrives in acidic soil from zones 2 through 7. Blueberries can tolerate soggy soils to some extent but prefer well-drained sandy soils and full sun. For best results, plant at least two types of blueberries in the vicinity. They grow to 6 to 12 feet in height, making excellent windbreaks and screens when planted 2-1⁄2 to 3 feet apart.
If your soil is above the desired pH of 4.5 to 5.2, use finely ground sulfur to acidify the soil. The plants need at least 1 inch of water weekly during the growing season, especially when young. Use peat moss or pine needles to help retain moisture; prune plants in late winter or early spring.
This easy-to-grow evergreen shrub produces sweet egg-shaped fruits and edible flowers. It’s drought-resistant and suitable for zones 8 to 10. Plant in full sun, or partial shade if necessary, and select self-fruiting varieties such as ‘Coolidge’ when possible. The shrub requires little care, is not prone to pest problems, and doesn’t usually require irrigation or major pruning.
This flowering evergreen hedge produces an edible red berrylike fruit that can be eaten raw or cooked. This fast-growing shrub reaches heights of 6 to 10 feet, is suitable for zones 9b to 11, and requires full sun to partial shade. Because it has sharp spines and much of the plant is poisonous (but not the fruit), be cautious where you locate it. Plant in sandy, well-drained soil, and do not overwater.
The leaves of this North American native, also called chokeberry, turn red in fall, and it produces a tart fruit that’s touted for its nutritional and medicinal qualities (see “How to Eat Aronia” below). It grows in zones 3 to 8 and reaches 8 feet tall. Space 4 to 6 feet apart for a hedge. It can tolerate a range of soil types, including damp areas, but it’s not drought-tolerant.
How to Eat Aronia
Aronia’s tart fruit is touted as a superfood because of its high vitamin C and antioxidant content. Many find the fruit too tart to eat directly from the bush. Follow these tips for making healthy and tasty treats with aronia.
• Juice aronia berries with a cider press or steam juicer and drink alone or mixed with other juices such as grape and apple.
• Cook aronia in a saucepan with a little water for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the desired texture is reached. Consider sweetening with maple syrup or apple juice and use as a topping for pancakes, yogurt or ice cream.
• Combine cooked and unsweetened aronia with other sweet fruits into a fruit salad.
• Add aronia to baked goods such as muffins and scones.