Sure, shrubs look great - but they can also taste great. Many attractive shrubs provide aesthetic appeal as well as bountiful harvests of delicious fruits, flowers and even leaves. Here's a list of shrubs that will go the extra mile in your garden and tips for enjoying them in the kitchen.
Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) has multiple seasons of interest in the landscape; prolific creamy white late spring and early summer flowers, crisp foliage turning colorful shades of yellow, orange, or red in the fall. Best of all, this native has purple-black fruit that can be eaten right off the plant. The Blackhaw fruit has the texture and taste of dried figs. You have to be fast, though, to enjoy it. Once these fruits ripen in June, the birds can beat you to these delectable delights.
Most people don't think about eating flowers. That's a shame, because some of them are quite tasty. For edible flowers, consider Rose of Sharon. A long time garden favorite, Hibiscus syriacus is a medium to large-sized shrub or small tree that produces masses of single or double flowering blooms in a variety of colors; white, pink, red, purple, blue. Blossoms appear in late summer and have a nutty flavor to them. Pick flower buds in the morning and put them in the refrigerator. They'll open when you take them out later to use.
Yucca or Candles of Heaven, is a tough, salt-tolerant evergreen which can have green, blue or variegated swordlike leaves which provide winter interest. Large summer flowers are borne on 4-6' spikes. The flowers of the selected native Yuccas available today are edible. Just sauté them in a bit of butter and enjoy!
Syringa vulgaris (not reticulata) is grown for fragrant flowers and the sweetness those blooms bring to dessert dishes like lilac syrup for ricotta stuffed crepes or brushed-over pastries. It can be candied or used fresh as a garnish. Mix it in to cream cheese and use it with thinly sliced cucumbers for tea sandwiches. Use it in herbal tea or as a replacement anytime you might normally use lavender. Common and French Hybrid Lilacs are medium to large-sized shrubs which bloom in May and June. They prefer sun and their flowers come in a wide spectrum of purple shades as well as white, pink and red. They're useful in the shrub border, in groups or as an informal hedge or screen.
Like lavender, rose petals add not just color but also fragrance to foods as a garnish, in salads or in jams and jellies. Roses have a perfume taste so you need to use them sparingly. Be sure to remove the white base of the petal as it is bitter. For the most part, older types, such as rugosa roses have the most flavor. In general, roses require full sun, moist but well drained soil, consistent watering, fertilizing and pruning.