2015-05-29 / Home & Garden

A Model for the Home orchard

Stopping to smell the flowers
By Arlene Marturano

Imagine coming home to a fruit salad in your front yard from spring through fall. Depending on the ripening schedule, you pick your way through an edible landscape all the way to the door. Students in the Green Quad Learning Center for Sustainable Futures at the University of South Carolina live this landscape daily.

In May the strawberry plant groundcover on either side of the center’s sunny entranceway is at its peak with fruit. The welldrained sandy loam maintains a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 necessary for most of the fruits on the orchard’s menu.

Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis, is a deciduous shrub growing 10-15 feet high. Ten-inch diameter flat-topped creamy circular flower clusters resembling flying saucers cover the plant in May. By July and August blue-black berries ripen.

The edible flower heads dipped in flour and egg batter make elderberry fritters. Cooked berries are made into pies, jellies, and wine. The challenge for humans is to harvest the fruit before the 50 kinds of birds that like them do.


Native elderberry fruit is used to make juices, wine, jams, and jellies. Native elderberry fruit is used to make juices, wine, jams, and jellies. The fig tree, Ficus carica, happy in the same soil pH as strawberries, is covered with figs in various stages of growth. The tree will bear an early summer and late summer crop. Figs that ripen on the tree have the best flavor. Mockingbirds know best when they are ready to pick.

Pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana, is a pest free evergreen shrub from Brazil as pretty as it is flavorful. The edible flowers of May have white petals with bright red stamens tipped in yellow anthers at the center. A green eggshaped fruit matching foliage color ripens in fall. The fruit’s skin is sour, but the jelly-like pulp has a pineapple-mint flavor. The day the fruit falls off the shrub is a sign it is ready to eat.

Native scuppernong grapes, Vitus rotundifolia, the bronze variety of muscadine, thrive in full sun and a soil pH of 5.8-6.5. Since grape vines live for decades, they require strong trellis supports.

You have arrived at the learning center doorway. On either side of the entranceway is a trellis supporting a vigorous kiwifruit vine, male on one side and female on the other if you expect fruit. Kiwifruit, Actinidia deliciosa, is native to China. The small fruited hardy kiwi, A. arguta, has a green skin and also grows in South Carolina.

Surrounding the fruits in the orchard are companion plantings of herbs like thyme, sage, mint, rosemary, and basil, used to bring beneficial insects, repel insect pests, prevent foraging, and suppress weeds.

The Green Quad Learning Center Orchard is a model for edible landscaping, sustainable land and gardening practices, and the greening of communities.



You can grow kiwifruit on a trellis at your doorway. You can grow kiwifruit on a trellis at your doorway.

Strawberries are harvested in the month of May. Strawberries are harvested in the month of May.

Evergreen shrub pineapple guava has an edible flower and fruit. Evergreen shrub pineapple guava has an edible flower and fruit.

Brown turkey figs are popular in the South Carolina home garden. Brown turkey figs are popular in the South Carolina home garden.

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