Lexington businesses are thinking outside the box. More accurately, they are planting outside the box — planting herbs and vegetables into their landscapes.
The “edible landscaping” movement has taken on national prominence, and many businesses in Lexington enjoy not only beautiful landscapes, but harvest nutritious and healthy food from them. Mixing edibles with ornamentals isn’t new; in fact, many plants we consider strictly ornamental today have edible qualities. What’s different now is that home and business landscapes alike are intentionally using plants for food alongside plants we use for beauty. And there’s not a raised bed or planting furrow in sight.
The University of Kentucky Arboretum is a prime example of creating beds that mix traditionally ornamental plants with what most of us would expect to see in vegetable beds. “The Dinosaur Kale mixed into the entrance beds was a hands-down favorite last year, especially with children,” said Marcia Farris, outgoing arboretum director. Beds and containers are filled with vegetables like chard, kale, lettuces, leeks, corn, herbs, peppers, eggplant and more.
“Many edibles are beautiful plants, and any time you put beautiful plants in a landscape, you increase its value. The fact that it provides food as well as an attractive aesthetic is a win-win,” said Molly Davis, the arboretum’s new director, who took over the role in January. Produce from the arboretum is donated to Lexington’s God’s Pantry.
The front yard of Debra Hensley’s State Farm office has been filled with multi-tiered containers of herbs and vegetables for several years, furnishing employees, clients and the community with free and bountiful produce. When Lexington lawyer Peter Brown bought his office space on Elaine Drive last year, he wanted to follow Hensley’s lead. Situated next to office spaces and apartments, he began by planting tomatoes in the small space bordering his parking lot and building. After amending the soil to improve it, Brown has plans to expand.
“Plans for this year include herbs, a serviceberry tree, perhaps some raspberries or blackberries and more,” Brown said. “It only makes sense to use the space for both beauty and to produce food.”