Notes from Windward: #66

Updated Plans for Edible Landscaping for the Dining Hall

      The project has progressed to the point where we're working with nurseries specializing in native plants, and adjusting our plan according to availability.

      The changes from the previous version of the plan involve the substitution of the Golden Currant (a NW native) for the Red Garden Currant, and the introduction of the Mountain Huckleberry (a western native that grows wild on the lower slopes of Mt. Adams).
To access a pdf file of the latest proposed planting layout,
Click Here.


      A garden comprised of attractive edible, drought-tolerant, mostly Pacific northwest native plants.



Crocus sativus

Edibility: high value food dye

      A perennial herb known only in cultivation, saffron has been prized since ancient times for the yellow-colored dyestuff derived from the flower stigmas. It's a low-growing, cormous plant with linear upright leaves that reach heights of 8-12". Fragrant flowers.

      Plant the corms (similar to bulbs and rhizomes) from early spring to autumn. Blossoming occurs in fall and lasts only a few weeks; flowers must be collected daily as they open in order to remove the stigmas. Approximately 210,000 dried stigmas from 70,000 flowers make one pound of true saffron.

      Corms usually need to be divided after three to five years.

      Sun or filtered shade



Camassia quamash

Edibility: roots

      Common camas has several leaves, similar to those of the daffodil or hyacinth. The blue violet flowers are shaped like stars and grow along the 12-18" stem. Native Americans relied on camas for food and traveled great distances to obtain it. The one to two-inch bulbs take 2-3 years to mature. Upon harvesting, bulbs can steamed (or slow-baked) to break down the starch into sugars, yielding a sweeter substitute for the potato.

      A meadow plant, camas likes moisture in the winter and spring followed by a dry period in the summer.

Sun or filtered shade



Camassia leichtlinii

Edibility: roots

      Taller than common camas, great camas has similar star-like, slender petaled blossoms of creamy blue. Flowers form on tall, 2-4' spikes in late spring, about three weeks after common camas.

Sun or filtered shade



Mahonia repens

Edibility: berries

      Creeping Oregon Grape has dull green leaves that resemble holly, fragrant yellow flowers and blue-purple edible fruits that ripen in late summer/early fall. An excellent ground cover, it grows 12-18" tall and spreads by rhizomes.

      Berries can be used to make jelly, wines, pies, and the flowers can be crushed to make a lemonade-like beverage. Berries are most edible after a frost has increased their fructose content.

Sun or shade
Drought resistant



Ribes aureum

Edibility: berries

      An attractive deciduous native shrub, golden currant grows vigorously from 3 to10' with a compact, upright form. Bluish-green leaves are maple-like in shape. Golden-yellow flowers with a spicy, clove-like fragrance bloom from February to April on tall, wand-like stems. While hummingbirds prefer the flowers, other birds (and humans) prefer the edible black fruits that ripen in mid-July. The berries were eaten fresh or dried for future use by the Okanagan-Colville and Yakama.

Sun or filtered shade
Drought resistant



Corylus cornuta californica

Edibility: nuts

      American Indians prized the western hazelnut (also known as a filbert) for its small, flavorful nuts that ripen in late fall. A spreading shrub or small tree, it grows 5-12' in height, is deciduous in winter, then produces long catkins with tiny white flowers in late winter/early spring. Its hairy, soft green leaves turn yellow in fall.

Filtered or full shade



Cercis occidentalis

Edibility: flowers, buds, seed pods, seeds

      A deciduous shrub, the western redbud usually develops multiple stems with an open form and grows to 8' in height. In spring, brilliant magenta flowers emerge before the blue-green leaves open. Reddish brown seed pods persist through the winter months. The western redbud's roots are symbiotic with nitrogen fixing bacteria (as are plants like alfalfa and clover), so it adds rather than depletes soil fertility.

Full sun
Drought tolerant



Sambucus cerulea

Edibility: berries

      A fast-growing, deciduous shrub with multiple stems, the blue elderberry can reach 6-12'in height. The bright green leaves grow from pithy stems (like raspberry canes) and surround the flat-topped clusters of white flowers. Shrubs yield large quantities of blue-black berries with a high vitamin content that can be used in pies, wines and preserves. Berries should not be eaten uncooked; roots, leaves and bark contain cyanide and must be avoided.

Sun or shade
Moderately drought tolerant



Amelanchier alnifolia

Edibility: berries

      A large deciduous shrub, serviceberry (also called Juneberry and Saskatoon berry) reaches 6-10' in height. It has blue-green foliage, abundant delicate 2" flower clusters that appear before the leaves in spring, and bright red and yellow fall color. Juicy, pea-sized purple fruits are excellent raw, used in pies and preserves, or dried. Serviceberries were highly regarded by Native Americans.

Full sun
Moderately drought tolerant



Vaccinium membranaceum

Edibility: berries

      An upright, densely-branched 3-6' deciduous shrub, mountain huckleberry is a western native. Its fine, oval leaves turn vibrant shades of scarlet or maroon in the fall. Small yellow-pink flowers bloom from April to June. The shiny, purple to black fruit ripen in September and are delicious for pies and jam. Berries were eaten fresh or dried for future use by the Okanagan-Colville, Yakama and other tribes.

Sun or filtered shade
Drought tolerant (but prefers moist soil)

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66