Have Your Waterfall and Eat It, Too!

Published on April 30, 2015

Fruiting shrubbery and flowers can be used in landscaping a water feature just as easily as traditional shrubs or grasses and they can look just as amazing. You’re going to landscape your waterfall and pond, so why not do it with edible trees, shrubs and groundcovers? Here are some that work well for me.

A Tasty Variety

Cranberries in bloom on a floating island. (Photo by Kelly Billing; Click Image to Expand)
Cranberries in bloom on a floating island. (Photo by Kelly Billing)

Let’s start with a serviceberry (amelanchier), either a tree form or a clump. Let’s locate it to sort of lean toward our waterfall or stream. We’ll get lovely white blooms in March, and juicy fruit in June if we beat the birds to it. (You can’t say that about a crepe myrtle or a Japanese maple.)

If the water feature is out in the yard and away from big trees or any woodland, I always want to add at least one small tree as I landscape it. Ideally, the tree will be positioned to keep part of the day’s sunlight off the stream or pond, which will help with low oxygen and algae problems. Besides the sarvis, Saskatoon, shadbush or serviceberry (depending on where you’re from), what other trees that bear food would work for that tree (or two or three) you plan to put in the waterfall or water garden landscape?

I’ve used pawpaws; they resemble a deciduous magnolia. You need two in a clump or another tree in the yard somewhere for good pollination. A quince or a dwarfish apple could work. A semi-dwarf, self-fruitful cherry or cornelian cherry dogwood would make a lovely addition. More exotic options: jujubes, olives, various citrus trees or a mayhaw or mountain ash bred for its fruit. You can also try medlar or mulberry; the medlar tastes like apple butter with cinnamon sprinkled on! Do a little checking to see if a plant will live and prosper in your climate as you add fruiting trees around your pond and waterfall.

For an evergreen, use Korean nut pine or Swiss stone pine, or in the southwest United States, the pinyon pine. Pine nuts are delicious!

Install Some Shrubbery

Cranberry with unripe berries. (Photo by Kelly Billing; Click Image to Expand)
Cranberry with unripe berries. (Photo by Kelly Billing)

Next, add some shrubs of varying sizes for a naturalized look. I automatically go to the blueberry. There are blueberries that grow from Orlando to Ottawa, from a foot to 8 feet tall, and some keep their colored leaves most of the winter (at least in USDA planting zones 7-10). A rather new fruiting bush I highly recommend for zones 3-5, and worthy of trial in 6 and 7, is the honeyberry, or haskap. I also will use currants, gooseberries, seaberries, bearberries and the upright thornless blackberries. Oregon grape holly is an evergreen that is lovely and has edible blue berries. Even if they’re not too tasty, they are good for you. The right edible shrub in the right location can make for both good landscaping and yummy snacking. (Metaphorically, I always love killing two birds with one stone.)


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 OK, let’s add a blossom or two. Ever add daylily blossoms to your salad? I prefer them a couple days before the bloom opens, myself. They can also be batter-dipped and deep fried. In Asian cuisine they are both staple and delicacy. Asparagus, onions, fennel, flowering kale and Swiss chard are all reasonable edible items that look nice in the landscape. And you can always find a way to hide one tomato plant or one hot pepper plant if you don’t want to showcase it.

To finish our layered, naturalizing look, let’s add creeping groundcover plants. Watercress is great in the bog or waterfall box, but cranberries can really naturalize a streambank or pond edge (see photo). Creeping rosemary for zone 7 and southward is wonderful at naturalizing pond edges. Wintergreen (gaultheria), also known as mountain tea or teaberry, is a cute little creeping evergreen for the shade. (Cranberries prefer sun.) Sheep sorrel or oxalis are tasty in a salad and do wonders to naturalize a waterfall edge. Creeping raspberries, lingonberries, kinnikinnick, pineberries and Alpine strawberries would all be naturalizing and bear edible fruit.

Riding the Fence

If you have a fence or some lattice or an arbor near your water feature, here are some climbers to use. Choose Scarlet runner beans if you want an annual. Passionfruit, magnolia vine, hardy kiwi, hops, ornamental grapes and goji berries all look nice and also fruit. Choose Tasmanian vine for the tropics.

Kinnikinnick (bearberry). (Photo courtesy Karen Stephenson, www.ediblewildfood.com) [Click Image to Expand]
Kinnikinnick (bearberry). (Photo courtesy Karen Stephenson, www.ediblewildfood.com)
With all these fresh goodies in your yard, your trips to the produce stand should be reduced a great deal … and the landscaping will be lovely too. Plus, checking to see what’s ready to eat will be extra incentive to get out and enjoy the water feature. Why go with a nandina or a Japanese maple or a boxwood around your pond when you can have a whole food forest to munch on? Besides: it will be the most natural-looking waterfall in your whole town!

Aqua UV

2 thoughts on “Have Your Waterfall and Eat It, Too!”

  1. Great article, Max! I’m gonna fry up some daylily blossoms as soon as they’re up ( they’re late this year, it’s been coooold.) Thanks for the terrific info – I’m adding it to my Aquaponics presentation (with your permission of course!) Have a great season!

    1. Demi…as you know I added you to the list of recipients to my landscaping column. Hope you enjoy! Thank you for the kind words. Maybe I’ll think of another topic especially for POND TRADE one of these days.
      (ps. notice my Atlantic Water Gardens t-shirt in the photo in the article?)
      Hope 2016 is better for us all…I’ve already built one nice little waterfall…and pond cleanings are in full swing on warmer days. Max

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