Edible landscaping: Hiding edible plantings in a HOA situation

LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,216 admin
edited May 2022 in The Urban Gardener

@torey brought this subject up while talking about sage being very practical in a well manicured flower bed. I would like to discuss this subject for our urban readers' benefit.

Can we make a list of edible trees, herbs, fruits & veggies that would be suitable and could blend into a difficult situation like an HOA? Each of these organizations will certainly have their own quirks, so let's try to cover from more stringent situations through more lax ones. More stringent = more "covert operation" plants that hide exceptionally well. 😉

Naming edible flowers & herbs that can accent the flowers may be the best place to begin this discussion.


  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    Awesome discussion. Covert operations, indeed!

    Here is a start. Hopefully there are lots more to add.

    These categories may overlap.

    Edible Flowers: Bee Balm, Calendula, Carnations, Chamomile, Daylilies, Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, Hostas, Nasturtiums (flowers, leaves, seed pods), Passionflower, Sunflowers (seeds), Tulips, Violas (violets, pansies)

    Edible Flowering Shrubs: Roses (flowers & hips), Elderberries (flowers & fruit), Lilacs, Oregon Grape (flowers & fruit), Tea (for those in warmer climates)

    Medicinal Flowering Plants: Bee Balm, Calendula, California Poppy, Echinacea, Feverfew, Goldenrod, Hibiscus, Marshmallow (root), Nasturtiums, Passionflower, Rudbeckia, Sweet Annie, Yarrow

    Medicinal Shrubs: Roses, Elderberries, Honeysuckle (flowers, not berries), Linden (tree), Oregon Grape (root)

    Flowering Herbs: Anise-Hyssop, Bulls Blood Sorrel (leaves are stunning), Chives, Hyssop, Lavender, Rosemary, Sage (many leaf variants as well as the fruit-scented sages), Thyme, Yarrow

    Ground-cover Edible or Medicinal Herbs: Bearberry aka Uva ursi (often used for trailing over banks or retaining walls), Bugleweed, Rock Cress, Sweet Woodruff, Wintergreen

  • kbmbillups1
    kbmbillups1 Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Raspberry Rumex - I have it growing in my garden to use as lettuce. It grows all year where I live.

    This year I bought a nine pack of it and planted it as a boarder to my new garden bed but it could be used in a flower bed in my front yard as well.

    Just know it has a very long tap root. I moved one from my garden to the new area and had a time getting the tap root out.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    @kbmbillups1 It is a stunning plant for colour and leaf texture in a flower bed. It goes by many names; Raspberry Rumex, Red-veined Sorrel, Red-veined Dock, Bull's Blood Sorrel, Bloody Dock, Bloody Sorrel, Wood Dock and Bloodwort. But all are referring to Rumex sanguineus.

    Delicious and very pretty addition to salads. Its a bitter so good for digestion. Like other members of the Rumex genus, this one can be helpful for skin conditions. But it has a fair amount of oxalic acid so should be avoided by anyone who has arthritic type ailments that could be aggravated by foods that are high in oxalic acid.

    It comes back in my garden every year (with babies).

    I can't imagine an HOA having any objection to this one.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,827 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Most herbs are quite attractive, so I would start there. Parsley, mint, basil, chives, and so on. Even without flowers, that would look fine in a bed. This applies to carrots, too, with the carrot root mostly invisible underground.

    My claytonia is in bloom right now. It's edible, also called miner's lettuce, and you can eat the flowers as well as the plants. It's also very cold tolerant, so does well in spring and fall when it's too cold for other crops. I'll post a picture of them later.

    Potatoes have pretty little purple flowers, and the actual potato tubers are below ground, not visible.

    Alpine strawberries grow wild in my lawn, and produce pretty little white flowers almost flush with the ground. Mowing does not harm them. They produce very small, edible berries.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    A few more.

    Dinosaur kale and Redbor kale are both quite attractive and can be blended into gardens for colour or structure.

    Lemongrass could take the place of other ornamental grasses (not in my zone).

    Sweet potato vines could act as a ground cover (again, not in my zone).

    For those of you who have a desert type climate, prickly pear cactus for nopales.

    There are several plants that have been bred to grow in (and tumble from) hanging baskets; strawberries, tomatoes, tomatillos, dwarf eggplant. Begonias are also edible.

    Peppers do well in pots and can be interspersed throughout the garden or placed along a walkway. Some are even sold as "ornamental" peppers.

    Basil comes in different colours and leaf forms including one called Globe basil that looks like a topiary.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,827 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Shot of my claytonia, taken this week. Tasty and beautiful too.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 713 ✭✭✭✭

    That is beautiful!

  • Merin Porter
    Merin Porter Posts: 1,026 admin

    There are some great suggestions in this article: https://thegrownetwork.com/edible-ornamental-plants/

    I love hostas, but have avoided planting them in my backyard because they are toxic to dogs. Oh, well!

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin
    edited May 2022

    @Merin Porter I always forget to check the blog for things like this. Thanks for the reminder.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    These ideas came from Bonnie Plants website.

    Garden under the radar

    Of course, you want to abide by your HOA's regulations if you can. But if that's just not going to work (and you're willing to face whatever consequences might come your way), look for ways to improve the existing landscape by gardening incognito, making sure each edible you add improves the look of your yard. Try these suggestions:

    • Replace declining shrubs with ornamental edibles like blueberries and rosemary.
    • Add flowering trees such as crabapples and cherries.
    • Replace annuals with peppers or kale, depending on the season.
    • Line walks and paths with a fragrant, beautiful herbs such as parsley, dill, and lavender.
    • Train tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and other willing-to-climb veggies on trellises painted to match your home's trim. Nestle them among sunny perennials and shrubs to add interest and texture (as well as camouflauge).
    • Get creative with containers. Pair Swiss chard with pansies, mint with marigolds. Fill hanging baskets with strawberries rather than geraniums.
    • Go above and beyond the call of duty to keep the yard looking great at all times.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Also, found this blog about Outlaw Gardening. She lives in an HOA.

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭
    edited May 2022

    In hot climates, you can grow red or green Malabar spinach on trellises. It grows fairly quickly and would make a great archway cover. I second the sweet potato vines. They grow great as a ground cover and/or on trellises as well. Even the purple ornamental varieties sold in big box stores have edible leaves, best of sautéed. We also have lots of cypress & juniper trees down here. I am always tempted to sneak some of the berries of a neighbors tree. Mesquite trees are also popular and the seed pods can be ground to make a flour replacement.

  • annbeck62
    annbeck62 Posts: 980 ✭✭✭✭

    I live in one of those "stringent" HOA neighborhoods. This is my first time living where there is a HOA and I did not know what I was getting myself into. They literally go around weekly and inspect our properties looking for violations. I hide my edibles by not planting in beds but not rows. I plant colorfully. For example, alternating between purple bok choi, kale, an edible flower, a bush bean, etc. That way unless you know what you're looking at it looks more like an annual flower grouping. I'm careful not to plant in rows. The flowers and most plants I plant are either edible or attract pollinators. When lots of things are in bloom, I've gotten compliments from workers in the neighborhood and some neighbors. Other neighbors are all about manicured grass lawns and will be happy when I move :)

  • SuperC
    SuperC Posts: 900 ✭✭✭✭

    Thyme, Oregano, chives are great as herbs to add within a few rocks for they like rock climbing. (Great ground covers)

    Grape vines: Concord and wine grape vines.

    I use a black fabric-plastic material attached to a cyclone fence facing East so the peas are kept cool because they do not like the southern and western intense heat. Then, i attached chicken wire and other wire fencing over the material for climbing.

    Cucumbers are planted under a wrought iron handrail for climbing.

    Dill and carrots planted separately due to stunted carrot growth if planted close to the dill.


  • Linda Bittle
    Linda Bittle Posts: 1,470 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I've been poking nasturtiums in amongst the tomato plants and have put pots around the border of my patio to kind of hide the cabbage and tomatoes a little bit. Most of the herbs are pretty, so that helps. The lemon balm has such pretty leaves. Lavender, bee balm, etc. I kind of try to mix stuff up so it doesn't look as much like a garden for veggies. Luckily my apartment complex is not too picky, and several residents have made a point to say they love my garden. A few cherry tomatoes later on should help, too.

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Mullein could also work adding texture and color variation. It reminds me of lambs ear only it's bigger. I found this one growing near where my garden bed is on our new property.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,349 admin

    The later one joins in, the more difficult it is to find plants that have not been mentioned before:

    Tall herbs: Common teasel, evening primrose, fennel, Jerusalem artichokes, sunflowers, flax,

    Ground cover or balcony flower: ground ivy, primrose,

    hedge medicinal bush: hawthorn, common barberry, elder, roses for rose hips, sea buckthorn …

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    Creeping raspberries for ground covers. They stay very low and have a lovely magenta pink flower (similar to the west coast Salmonberry, Rubus spectabilis). My daughter has two plants that survived the winter in less than hospitable conditions in zone 3b.

    There are two varieties on this page but unfortunately they are all sold out for this year.

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I can't remember but I don't think wild strawberry, or Indian strawberry as I have heard it called, has been mentioned.

    It's medicinal and such but could be used as a ground cover or living mulch perhaps.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,402 admin

    @JennyT Upstate South Carolina I think what you are talking about is Duchesnea indica aka Mock Strawberry, False Strawberry or Indian Strawberry. More recent DNA classification may have it listed as Potentilla indica. Closely related to strawberry but not a Fragraria species. I've never seen it before as it isn't hardy in my area. I have read that while it looks like a strawberry with the same texture, it has no flavour. The flowers are yellow instead of white.

    But it does have medicinal uses. Often used for skin conditions (eczema), swellings, boils & abscesses, bruising, etc.

    And it makes an excellent ground cover.

  • water2world
    water2world Posts: 1,046 ✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning I had never considered the extent of edibles that you could "hide" in your landscaping! Thanks for starting this topic thread!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,216 admin
    edited May 2022

    @water2world I just listened to most of an edible flowers webinar replay from Agriscaping. Their business is landscaping with edibles.

    It's amazing how much can be done that people might not even think of or be aware of.

  • JennyT Upstate South Carolina
    JennyT Upstate South Carolina Posts: 1,273 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @torey Thank you for the correct classification.

    I heard/read somewhere that what we have here in the US is a "descendant" , for lack of a better term, of the Mock strawberry/Indian strawberry over in England. It was first brought over by the settlers, and the true plants in England, the berries, actually have a sweet taste.

  • RustBeltCowgirl
    RustBeltCowgirl Posts: 1,403 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Here's some information that includes pairing items together.