Wednesday, 14 March 2012 Growing Articles Hits: 1785
Article by Julie
Or in my case now that the veggies have taken over my back garden…flowers in the veg patch!
Most people grow either vegetables OR flowers, but for centuries it has been common practice in Europe to combine both flowers and vegetables in the same garden. In France it is called “pottage” gardening..I tend to call it companion planting as the flowers care for the vegetables and fruit in various ways, therefore it makes sense to grow them. Marigolds for example deter grubs and worms as well as flying insects. I especially like the red ones I manage to propagate each year.
Most herbs have pretty purple flowers that attract bees that are vital to certain types of pollination. Pollination is the act of fertilisation which in fruit shrubs and trees, results in the formation of fruit… the same goes for some vegetables. How best to attract bees and insects into the vegetable patch than by growing flowers alongside them! Some flowers are even edible so as well as doing their job they can be added to salads and soups. Four edible flowers are calendula, nasturtium , chives and borage. Strikingly different all serve the same purpose to deter insects away from the vegetables but they are extremely pretty, easy to grow and you can eat them.
Herbs are used to flavour food but they can act as strong deterrents and keep away aphids. Herbs are also mostly perennials so once grown they can be forgotten. Some annual herbs are really pretty and would look well in a flower garden ie, dill with its feathery leaves and green umbrella shaped flowers, coriander and parsley with its curly leaves is actually a biennial and gives a touch of green to a winter garden and makes a pretty edging to a flower bed. Chives are a well known herb with a pretty purple pompom flower and the grass like leaves are used in salads to flavour spreads and cheese. They look equally good in both a vegetable or a flower bed. I would also grow borage in both a vegetable and flower garden although the leaves have no appeal whatsoever, the pretty star-shaped flowers are edible and very decorative, some cake makers actually use the flowers as cake decorations. Rosemary is easy to grow and can make an attractive hedge as well as tasting great on barbecued pork chops.
As for growing vegetables in amongst the flower beds I am now working on that in my front garden and this year I’ve introduced some fruit shrubs for starters. Strawberries look great dangling from pots amongst the flowers. A pear tree adds height to the garden and 3 blueberry bushes are about to replace my “skimmia japonica”. Fennel has pretty feathery foliage that locks in the morning dew and shimmers like a mass of encrusted diamonds in the early sunlight. Dwarf broad beans have masses of purple flowers that look pretty good amongst the pink and white mallows.
Tomatoes look good anywhere and especially lined up under a south facing window in full sunlight (just don’t forget to water). Leeks also look pretty good in the front garden and can be grown in amongst the annuals as can sweet corn. Peas are great just left to ramble over a dry stone wall rather than growing up pea sticks. Runner beans have pretty red flowers and can make a very decorative screen as well as providing beans all summer long.
If you don’t fancy traditional vegetables in amongst the flower beds there are always the new red varieties of vegetables. Kale, cauliflower, cabbage all come in varieties that are grown more for their ornamental value. Red lettuce has become very popular and seems to taste better. I find that if you are growing lettuce or any salad greens its best to make a raised bed and grow the lettuce in fresh potting compost, this way your not likely to get the odd dandelion leaf mixed in with your salad. Large pots would also work just as well but remember that anything grown in pots needs extra attention to feeding and watering.