Thorny blackberries can be planted along fence lines to deter intruders while providing plenty of delicious fruit. (Maureen Gilmer)
Survivalists, sustainability fans and anyone else who strives to be more self-sufficient may want to check out the Raintree Nursery 2013 catalog (http://www.raintreenursery.com).
No other retail resource, I believe, compares to this extravaganza of long-lived plants that turn even a small bit of ground into a highly productive mini-farm.
Long-lived, food-bearing plants produce every year without the need to replant. And health benefits are provided by the fruits, nuts, tubers and seeds they provide.
Everyone is familiar with fruit trees, and this catalog is quite good regarding our most popular choices. But what makes it great are the oddballs that provide a large enough palette that you can literally landscape with them. Once you see these plants as a designer would ornamentals, you'll be able to choose from fabulous varieties to shade, screen, add color, flowers and fall foliage to your yard.
One of the most unusual aspects of this catalog is its emphasis on the wild progenitors of our domestic fruit crops. These are far more self-sufficient plants than traditional orchard crops because, as natives, they will naturalize at your house if the local climate is suitable. That means they adapt to the ordinary rainfall like a wild plant, so every year you get crops without lifting a finger.
Among the many examples is salal, Gaultheria shallon, a Northwestern woodland native adapted to heavy rainfall and acidic soils. These large-leaf spreading shrubs are beautiful in flower followed by dark blueberry-like fruits. And salal likes the shade.
From this same region comes huckleberries, an upright beautiful evergreen shrub that is a powerful bearer of small fruit beloved for pancakes. Along with the species Vaccinium ovatum, there are other varieties that are even better producers. Still more yields can be obtained with wild Maine blueberries, which can naturalize across the colder states.
Among the options are serviceberries, lingonberry and, of course, elderberry, from which wine has traditionally been made. Raintree offers Sambucus canadensis, our native elder, as well as named varieties with much higher productivity.
It is not difficult to integrate food plants into your home landscape or start a whole new yard with productive choices. Simply think of an apple tree as a "spring flowering accent tree," then position it accordingly. Cover your shade arbor with kiwi or table grapes. Create hedges and backgrounds with large productive berry shrubs or tea camellia. Use artichokes, strawberries and currants in borders just as you would perennial flowers.
The best way to increase your family's food supply is with healthy organically grown fruits and vegetables from home gardens. These plants need not be limited to an orchard or vegetable plot, because they're beautiful and reliable landscape plants, too.