Does your landscape provide for you?

2021 is here. Many of you will be celebrating the end of 2020 and hoping that 2021 will be different and come with some increased stability. In the past few weeks, we’ve seen some unusual weather patterns occurring worldwide, from a recent polar vortex in N.America and Europe (it even snowed in Saudi Arabia) to record temperatures in the Arctic, Mongolia and recently Europe. These events result from human-induced climate change, and for whatever reasons, few of us are acknowledging this and taking notice.

In my opinion, we are going to see these weather events impact our global food supply system. Instead of smaller, resilient and local food hubs, we have adopted a more extensive globalized, inherently fragile food system. This fragility, in part, is caused by the great distances we ship our foods all around the world. Often products that we can find at our local farms. While working in England some 30+ years ago, I recall seeing BC apples for sale on a grocery shelf. There is no need to ship our food halfway around the world.

I think we are coming into an age where we need to consider the functions of our landscapes, how much time and energy go into these spaces, and what yields are they providing? Sadly, few residential landscapes contain plants for their owners, whether food, medicine, fuel or fibre. Many plants have unique compounds that have benefits for humans beyond the primary need for calories.
Here’s just one example, Hemerocallis fulva (Common Day Lily) is a fairly common herbaceous perennial often seen in residential and commercial settings. Here’s a snippet of its uses from a fabulous website, Plants for a Future.

Leaves and young shoots – cooked. An asparagus or celery substitute. An excellent sweet-tasting vegetable, though some caution is recommended. The leaves need to be eaten whilst still very young since they quickly become fibrous. Flowers – raw or cooked. The petals are thick and crunchy, making very pleasant eating raw, with a nice sweetness at the base because of the nectar[K]. The flowers can also be dried and used as a thickener in soups etc. In this case, they are picked when somewhat withered and closed. A rich source of iron. Flower buds – raw or cooked. A pea-like flavour. Can be dried and used as a relish. The dried flower contains about 9.3% protein. 25% fat!?, 60% carbohydrate (rich in sugar), 0.9% ash. It is rich in vitamin A. Tubers – raw or cooked. A nutty flavour. Young tubers are best, though the central portion of older tubers is also good.

Impressive, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Surely, our gardens can provide us with aesthetic beauty and contain important and useful plants that we can use in our daily lives. Why not integrate some asparagus into your ornamental landscape? They are very ornamental, a durable, robust perennial which provides some tasty new growth in the spring. Did you know that they are straightforward to grow from seed?

We are seeing an increase in inquiries from people who want to increase the resilience of their landscapes. People realize that they need to take responsibility for all aspects of their lives, including the food on their table. Regenerative or Permaculture design does just that. Permaculture design is the only land design system that I’m aware of, that has three ethics that drive the design process. Earth Care, People Care, and Return of Surplus. When combined with the permaculture principles, these design tools can dramatically change how a landscape functions for both the surrounding ecosystem and its owners. You can have your cake and eat it too.

We don’t know what lies in front of us for 2021, but we do know that we all can make some small changes in our home landscapes that may result in some large and grateful yields down the road. Consider integrating some edible or medicinal plants into your landscape this season.


Jamie Wallace
Co-owner of Jaan Designs
Regenerative land designer, educator