Functional vs. Ornamental Landscaping

When my husband was in the Marine Corps, we bought a house in a cul-de-sac to avoid rent gouging and sketchy neighborhoods, and the outrageously long waiting list (2 years!) for on-base housing. When we bought it, we purchased by owner and the previous homeowners had put time and effort into landscaping it to give it curb appeal.

The only thing is, I hated it. 

Azalea bushes are one of my biggest seasonal allergy culprits and the asthetic value to asthma is just not worth it. So, we dug out the bushes along the walk and planted herbs and tomatoes.

Without ornamental bushes

I’m sure our neighbors thought we were crazy. At one point, I actually got a nasty anonymous letter decrying my “overgrown and unkempt” yard as being an eyesore to the neighborhood. (They didn’t bother to offer me help or ask about the fact that I was activity restricted by my doctors because I was in month 5 of a high-risk pregnancy with my son and wasn’t keen on pushing the lawnmower….But anyway…) That just goes to show how many people have no idea the difference between ornamental and functional landscaping.

It’s true that a lot of herbs when fully grown look weedy, but who cares? They’re endlessly more useful in cooking, teas, herbal remedies, and more! Far more useful than hostas and day lilies, or ornamental grasses.

So I found myself puttering about the yard again today and in light of my unrestricted acreage and my “I-don’t-give-a-hoot” attitude, I dug up the ornamentals in front of the house.

The thing with any landscaping project is that it always looks worse before it gets better. It’s a process. I consider it surgery for the lawn. The ground has to be broken and dug up before I can put it back together and it takes time to “heal”.

Here was a “before”

Here’s what it looked like after I went to work on the east side

I found oodles of landscaping bricks buried under weeds and topsoil. The earth was soft and workable from years of being covered (if you need some insight on ground cover’s impact on topsoil, check out the Back to Eden Film here.)

I took out the nasty azalea bushes and planted a Bonus blueberry from Pinetree Garden Seeds in its place. I left two hastas for the time being, until or unless I need the space for something more functional.

Cardboard to keep down weeds

For me, form and function trump purely asthetic value. By getting those “useless” plants out of the way, I freed up valuable real estate for something that actually produces me food. Not to mention, when you follow form and function, asthetics naturally result. Blueberry bushes are beautiful when they are in bloom and fruiting!

Bonus blueberry


So if you were my neighbor, I’d encourage you to delve in to permaculture and sustainable food forests. Because what is the point of plants you can’t eat? 

2 thoughts on “Functional vs. Ornamental Landscaping

    1. Thanks for the heads up! That’s good to know. I didn’t know bees liked them! I’ll keep them around as our colony is set to arrive soon!

      Liked by 1 person

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