When we built our house in 2016, I had a “blank canvas” yard to work with for my gardening obsession. While the project was definitely daunting, I was (and still am) ecstatic. Yay, I can put in my DREAM GARDEN!!!!
I am building the front foundation beds as edible and pollinator landscaping, while still keeping it as a (hopefully beautiful) garden. For this I am including ornamental looking veggies, flowers, and herbs in the front part of the deep foundation beds.
One thing I was (and still am) adamant about is that I wanted to use permaculture and edible landscaping principles for the foundation and front yard plantings, including flowers to support and provide food for birds and pollinators. I absolutely detest the “evergreen shrub with arborvitae” foundation plantings you see around so much of the new construction in our area: a cluster of carefully manicured evergreen shrubs that will need to be hedge-trimmed forever-after, along with a sea of brown or black mulch to kill any weeds that dare pop up, and if you are really lucky, maybe a peony or azalea bush or two. (Though I do love peonies and azaleas and plan to add a Mt. St. Helens azalea as soon as I can decide on a spot for it, because I love the color).
Instead of using the standard “veggie garden layouts”, I put plants in groupings or in sinuous rows that follow the edge of the flowerbeds (though I still space them appropriately for the size of the plant). I treat everything like an ornamental or a flower, crammed in wherever I can eek out some space and where I think it will look nice. So sorrel is right behind the oregano. A long sweep of sage and thyme in front of some red Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers.
Herbs such as lemon thyme, purple sage, and golden oregano are stunning as “ground cover” edging plants. Rosemary and lavender are a bit larger and go great as fragrant substitutes for small shrubs. Sweet potato is amazing for a leafy ground cover, though I only put that next to the front door or where I think the deer won’t go after it!
Many flowers are edible. Daylilies come in colors to fit any garden design. Chives are lovely as flowers even by themselves. Roses for rosehip tea. I also have the Saffron crocuses: double goodness: flower and saffron. (Harvest with tweezers)! I plant chrysanthemums along the entire length of the front beds: they have the benefit of having beautiful and edible flowers in the late summer and give great color in the fall.
Many edibles also have beautiful ornamental leaves or stalks that are perfect for visual interest even when nothing is flowering. For foliage/leaf interest I plant leeks (fall foliage) or garlic (spring foliage). Bunching onions also have nice leaf interest and a (modest) flower. Lacinato (dinosaur) kale is also beautiful for its foliage. French and blood-veined sorrel are stunning in groups, and give some of the earliest greens in the spring. Cutting celery, Lovage (a celery flavored herb) and Bronze fennel also have beautiful foliage.
I would use Swiss chard in the front yard, except for that we have a lot of deer who would consider it a gourmet salad (along with the hostas).
I’m still adding trees. In the front yard I have almond, cherry, and apricot trees. These have beautiful flowers in the spring, and of course fruit and nuts in the fall. Figs have spectacular leaves and look absolutely tropical.
We moved in in 2016 (new construction), so the front yard is nowhere near done, but annuals give some nice punch while I am still adding perennials and trees. Disclaimer: I am NOT in a development with an HOA, so I could probably get away with a more “vegetable garden looking” front yard planting, but I have a fenced backyard for the traditional (hopefully deer-proofed) potager garden.