The new Ornamental Edibles exhibit in the arboretum's National Herb Garden will demonstrate ways that home gardeners can incorporate delicious vegetable plants into their landscape gardens. Visitors to the herb garden are encouraged to experience plants through sight, smell, touch and taste. It is the largest designed herb garden in the nation that includes annual, perennial and woody herbal plants.
The exhibit is being used to promote healthy eating and contribute to the USDA initiative encouraging Americans to eat locally produced food. The exhibit is managed by arboretum horticulturist Chrissy Moore and technician Jeanette Proudfoot. The arboretum is administered by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Many vegetables make lovely landscape plants. According to Scott Aker, who leads the arboretum's Gardens Unit, ornamental edible plants have attractive foliage, texture and color that give them curb appeal while they are producing food. Even small areas and container gardens can be used to grow attractive vegetables and fruits for home use.
The arboretum's exhibit will feature vegetables appropriate for the current season while also highlighting ARS research. For example, visitors to the arboretum this summer can see ARS-developed, nematode-resistant peppers arranged with tomatoes, eggplants, gourds and beans in an attractive—and tasty—landscape garden.
Visitors are encouraged to sample the plants in the exhibit. And should one want to know more about the garden, a quick call to the arboretum's "Cell Phone Tour" phone number displayed on a small sign will tell visitors more about it.
The spring crop of salad greens has been harvested and tomatoes are being harvested. During the fall, the exhibit will include cool season crops such as kale and other leafy greens. If feedback is good, Aker and Moore will consider continuing the exhibit for another year.