Years ago when I was designing my property with plantings for both beauty and food, I came across the Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas). It belongs to the Dogwood family but grows more like a shrub. It was a perfect fit for my landscaping goals of sustainability.
My gardening plan was not just to grow annual vegetables every season but also perennial plants—including nut and fruit trees and shrubs—that were a more year-round element of the landscape. (This diversity of plantings attracted a diversity of interesting animals and colorful birds to my property.)
The Cornelian Cherry (pictured here) is hardy in climate zones 4-8 and produces one-inch fruit that is excellent for preserves. It feeds my soul as well, with beautiful little yellow flowers that bloom even before the Forsythias in late winter or early spring.
It is a tough and reliable plant, too, and seems to be holding up well under the severe drought conditions that I am experiencing on my homestead here in southern Illinois. This toughness allows me to conserve water—so that I am not a drain on community resources. In other words, my ultimate gardening plan and goal was to live well while being conscientious of the welfare of my neighbors.
Way back in 1979 (after witnessing two oil embargos) I had decided to buy some rural acreage and create a sustainable lifestyle. I wrote about this “project” in my first book, Sermon From The Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An “Inner” Garden. I designed my edible landscape based on the theological ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg, who promoted the idea that all things in the natural world reflected corresponding elements and dynamics of a non-material spiritual realm.
After 30-plus years, my landscape has become a mirror image of all the ideas and feelings that I have valued and cultivated within my inner spirit (the essence of “inner” gardening)! It is my hope that when I finally leave this terrestrial orb I will find a similar heavenly landscape prepared for me as my soul’s eternal abode and paradise.