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Creating a Decorative Potager

Posted on 2nd May 2016

Growing vegetables doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have a separate area of the garden that looks like an allotment and keeps your production area out of the way of your ornamental garden. Indeed many vegetables are highly decorative in their own right and can be grown as much for their aesthetics as for their taste. Some are annuals that can be used as gap fillers in your borders or you could even create an edible, decorative bedding scheme entirely using ‘veg’ while others are herbaceous perennials, shrubs and trees that can be planted permanently within a border – either formal or informal – and grow alongside their less edible companions.

Although this idea of mixing useful and edible plants into decorative garden areas is gaining popularity it is not a new idea and the French word ‘potager’ has its roots in the French Renaissance period of the 27th century. As more and more gardeners are interested in growing their own food but not all of them have the luxury of space,a decorative potager can combine the best of both worlds, a decorative potager can combine the best of both worlds. There are some superb vegetables with wonderful textured and colourful foliage, stems and flowers to consider using and below is a brief tour of some of the best for a decorative potager.

Borecole ‘Redbor’ grows to around 40cm high and has the most marvellous deep purple and deeply wrinkled curly leaves, it can be sown in spring and you can start cropping from it mid-summer by taking a few leaves at a time, it will keep going right the way through the winter and keep you in fresh vitamins and iron as well as providing long term interest in the garden.

Calaloo is a highly ornamental plant, the scientific name is Amaranthus and many will be familiar with Amaranthus caudatus commonly known as ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ which was once popular as a bedding plant and is starting to regain popularity as a container plant and for summer colour in borders due to the dramatic pendulous inflorescence. Calaloo is a popular food source in Africa, India and South America because its young leaves can be eaten like spinach and the seeds are similar to millet in taste and uses. A highly decorative plant with a variety of uses. Lettuce: there are many decorative lettuce varieties and some outstanding ones include ‘Lollo Rossa’, Red and green ‘Oak Leaf’ varieties and curly endive. Lettuce are quick and easy to grow and if sown successionally into modules, a second generation can be planted out as the earlier ones are harvested.

Basil ‘Purple Ruffles’ a lovely deep burgundy coloured variety of sweet basil with deeply crinkled leaf margins.

Lablab purpureus is a super climbing bean from Asia that is less vigorous than a runner bean and produces purple tinted foliage, pink sweet pea-like flowers and purple pods. Grow up a cane wigwam or decorative obelisk to add height and to make the most of the young bean pods.