A few years ago I traded lawns for beds of flowers and fruit trees. After the annuals bloomed and before the perennials began flaunting their blossoms, the beds looked desolate and boring. Sometimes the best planting combos happen by accident. I tucked edible flowers in the beds and surrounded them with ruffled lettuces, frilly parsley, rainbow carrots with fronds like miniature ferns, and the brilliantly colored stalks and leaves of 'Bright Lights' chard. Wow! What a jolt the unexpected mixture of textures and colors gave my garden!
Claiming the Spotlight
I'll never look at a vegetable the way I did years ago. Bronze lettuce leaps the boundaries of salad bowls and becomes a border. Topknots of radishes and beets form intricate parterres. Runner beans, with as much dignity as roses, climb trellises and obelisks. Fountains of artichokes claim a spotlight once reserved for fancy perennials. I can't ever go back to the traditional mix of perennials and annuals. Now the spice in my garden recipe is in the unexpected beauty and drama of vegetables.
Recipe for Your Garden
Here's my advice for a combination flower-and-vegetable garden:
1. Start small. Containers work great.
2. Think beyond straight lines.
3. Focus on combinations of colors and textures.
4. Succession-plant for continuous impact.
What are your favorite ornamental edibles? What do you love to plant?