Spring Flowering Trees with Edible Fruit

Edible crabapples are larger and great for canning. (Image by JMiall)

Sometimes in our home yards and gardens, we plant primarily for ornamental purposes, but perhaps we overlook the fact that attractive plants can also provide food. The following flowering trees have both attributes. All are easily grown in western Oregon and Washington and garden-worthy, even without their food value.


Western serviceberry has delicious summer berries.

Amelanchier alnifolia is not exactly a household name, nor is it a name many gardeners find familiar, but call it western serviceberry or just saskatoon, and many would recognize it. Western serviceberry is a popular Oregon native plant that is often used in gardens, especially those with a slant toward native plants. It is a superb selection for a garden as it has clusters of white flowers in the spring that are attractive to bees and butterflies and then produces berries in the summer that can be eaten fresh or used to make pies, jams, or jellies. In the autumn, the leaves will often turn bright red for some nice fall color.

Western serviceberry is said to have the best-tasting fruit of the genus, but others say the hybrid Amelanchier x grandiflora also has delicious fruit. The hybrid is also easier to find at nurseries. Try the cultivar Autumn Brilliance®, which boasts spectacular red fall color.

Serviceberry might be considered a large shrub or small multi-stemmed tree, as plants can reach about 15 ft in height. Often found growing naturally along stream banks, it seems to grow equally well in open wooded areas and will probably perform best in a partially shaded home garden setting. Before planting, amend soils with Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss or Black Gold Garden Compost Blend. Plants will need supplemental water for the first couple of years to become established and then can usually survive without additional water.


Hardy olive trees look great in the landscape and bear edible olives.

When we think of olive trees (Olea europaea), we probably think of olive groves in Spain, Greece, or the numerous olive groves in California. Olives are native to the Mediterranean region, but they have adapted well in California. Recently there has been an increased interest in olives as a garden plant for northwest gardens. ‘Arbequina‘ is a widely available compact olive tree, reaching just 8 to 10 feet, has that is reported to be remarkably cold hardy, surviving winters to USDA Hardiness Zones 7-9.

Olive foliage is gray-green and stands out against homes or other garden greenery. Cold hardiness is the deciding factor on whether olives will become widely planted in home gardens. Currently, at the Oregon State University North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, OR, there is an olive cold hardiness trial being conducted.

Edible Crabapples

‘Chestnut’ is one of several edible crabapples to grow.

Another group ornamental trees that provide spring color and fall fruit are true edible crabapples. Malus ‘Chestnut’ is just such a tree. This crabapple will reach about 15 ft in height and needs a full sun location. White flowers cover the tree in spring, and in fall, it produces large, red-blushed fruits. The sweet, nutty fruits are excellent for canning or jelly. They can even be eaten fresh.

Another edible flowering crabapple is the diseases-resistant heirloom ‘Hopa’, which reaches 25 feet. In spring, it bears clusters of fragrant, rose-pink flowers, and edible red fruit is produced in quantity in the fall, followed by yellow fall foliage. Its large, tart crabapples are best used for jam and jelly.

Cornelian Cherry

The cherry-like fruits of Cornelian cherry are good for jam making.

There are many dogwoods to chose from, but one of my favorites is Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), a small tree reaching 15-25 feet. This dogwood blooms very early, even before the tree has leaves. The clusters of yellow blossoms appear on bare twigs in late winter, which are quite pleasant to see on a dreary winter day. In the fall, cherry-like red fruits appear, which can be used to make preserves, if you can get them picked before the birds get them! The fall color is usually yellow, and with the red fruit, it makes for an eye-catching display. The bare branches have gray and tan blotches for winter interest.

Peaches and Plums

‘Shiro’ plum is beautiful in spring, and its fruits are tasty.

Some more standard fruiting trees are also bestowed with beauty as well as delicious fruit. The peach Red Baron (12-18 feet) has spectacular double-red blossoms in spring followed by delicious golden peaches that ripen mid to late season. And, the exceptionally hardy ‘Shiro‘ (18-20 feet) golden plum produces clouds of white flowers in spring, loads of small clingstone golden plums in summer, and develops beautiful fall foliage of red, orange and gold.

This is just a sampling of some of the many trees and shrubs that can provide a multi-purpose plant in our gardens. Talk with other gardeners in your neighborhood, and you may be surprised at the choices you have.

These flowering and fruiting trees also have wildlife value.

Edible Landscaping

Pots of lettuce look great in spring or fall gardens.

As I visit gardens, it is a delight to see more and more gardeners incorporating edible plants into their landscape. It has not been that many years ago that vegetables, fruits, berries, and herbs would be grown in their own separate garden spots. In many cases, they would be away from the ornamental plantings around the house. That is not so today, with gardeners being very creative in using edible plants, whether planted in the landscape or in containers.

Ornamental Berries

Blueberries are attractive garden shrubs to add to your landscape.

I think that one of the first edibles to incorporate into the ornamental garden are blueberries (Vaccinium spp.). Since the blueberry is a shrub, this is easy incorporation. Here in the Pacific Northwest, many gardens have blueberry plants mixed in and among ornamentals, and with good reason. The blueberry is a natural in the ornamental garden because in the early spring there are clusters of creamy white flowers, followed by blueberries and, depending on the variety, the harvest season can extend from June through August. If that is not enough, in the fall, they have exceptional fall color with leaves turning shades of yellow and red. Blueberry plants like acidic soil rich in humus, and Black Gold Garden Compost Blend or Black Gold Peat Moss are ideal amendments to add at time of planting or to use as a top dressing around the plants. Blueberries have shallow roots and the addition of compost around the base of the plant will help keep the roots moist in the summer. Plant at least two shrubs for good fruiting, ‘Bluejay’ and ‘Duke’ are good selections.

Often when we think of hanging baskets, we think of flowers, but consider everbearing strawberries (Fragaria anassa) as an alternative. The plants will fill the basket, and the runners will trail down over the sides. Select a variety such as ‘Quinault’ or ‘Seascape’ that will produce berries over a long period of time. Hanging baskets tend to dry out quickly on hot summer days and Black Gold Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Mix is specially formulated to retain moisture.

Ornamental Fruit Trees

These espaliered apples are space-saving and look great.

While most city lots cannot accommodate standard size fruit trees, some innovative gardeners have learned to espalier dwarf fruit trees. In a very limited space, you can grow apples, pears, peaches, and plums. Training a fruit tree on to a wire support system is not difficult, but it does require regular pruning and training to keep the branches flat along the wire. The limiting factor for some gardens would be sunlight, and for fruit trees to thrive, they should have at least six hours of sunlight; more would be preferable.

Ornamental Greens

Rainbow chard makes a beautiful addition to borders.

Pretty and delicious greens are some of the easiest ornamental edible to incorporate into the garden. Plant pretty pots of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) for a colorful and delicious change to bedding flowers. Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris ssp. cicla) and attractive kales will also add big foliar interest to gardens and landscapes. Try the fantastically pretty blue-green dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea ‘Lacinato’) or silvery cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) to make a bold garden statement. Pretty herbs, like lavender-flowered chives (Allium schoenoprasum), also make a great floral and foliar addition to gardens.

Ornamental Vines

Tromboncino squash looks pretty and tastes great.

Growing squash and cucumbers vertically is something I am seeing in gardens both in the ground and in containers. Bush squash or cucumbers are always the best for smaller garden spaces or pots. The pretty pattypan squash ‘Sunburst’ has bold leaves and delicious yellow fruit. If you want a potted cucumber, try the small, pretty ‘Salad Bush’. Its small cucumbers are crisp and delicious.

For vining squash, choose summer squash, which can be easily trained to grow on a trellis. If growing squash or cucumbers in a container, use Black Gold Natural & Organic Potting Mix for optimum results. Summer squash can be quite decorative on a deck or patio with fruits of various shades of green and yellow. The long-vined (15 foot) tromboncino squash (Cucurbita moschata ‘Tromba d’Albenga’) is grown for its long fruit, which can reach 3 feet or more. Let the squash grow vertically on a trellis, and plant herbs or edible flowers around the base, like pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis) or basil (Ocimum basilicum).

Edible Flowers

Then there is a suite of fantastically beautiful edible flowers to make your garden look outstanding and taste wonderful. Watch this video to discover the best-tasting edible flowers for gardeners to grow.

Some gardeners are making their raised vegetable beds as a focal point of the garden. Raised beds do not have to be square or rectangle but can be cut to reflect different angles.

The possibilities of an ornamental, edible garden or landscape are endless. Do some experimenting, and you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to have a pretty edible garden providing good looks and fresh produce throughout the summer.