I have gardens that are mostly vegetables and gardens that are mostly flowers but none are exclusively one or the other. I simply don’t think that way. I prefer to blur the lines. There are too many beautiful vegetables to not include in the flower garden. Bright Lights Chard has gorgeous colorful stems and leaf veins that look great in flower beds. Ruby Perfection cabbages are fabulous edging the garden or anchoring the corners. Scarlet Runner beans or Dwarf Grey peas are as beautiful on a trellis as any flower vine. Leeks are biennials that flower and go to seed in their second year. Planted in the flower garden they reward you with their giant steel blue globes. Parsley and cilantro also serve double duty when they flower in tall delicate clouds. Even common parsnips form a statuesque golden umbrella flower. All of these flowers in addition to being beautiful, attract beneficial insects. The insects benefit plants by pollinating for greater production or eating the eggs and larvae of harmful insects.
Flowers are equally helpful in the vegetable garden. Marigolds are famous for reducing nematode worm populations in the soil. I love Lemon Gem and Tangerine Gem marigolds that are named for their color and scent. The best crop of squash and pumpkins I ever had was the year I planted Sweet Allysum all around the bed. The bees loved it and stopped for a while on the squash blossoms in between getting drunk on the alyssum! So now I always plant drifts of Sweet Allysum for the bees. And the poppies, everywhere the poppies, they attract the bees and me! My favorite is “Lauren’s Grape.” I planted hundreds in honor of my beautiful daughter-in-law, Lauren, to bloom on her wedding day.
The herbs go everywhere. Herbs give beauty, scent, flavor, and protection. Herbs make good companion plants. A companion plant is one that improves the growth of its neighbor. Some herbs confuse hungry plant-eating insects who rely on scent to find their food. The strong aromas of herbs dominate the subtler scent of vegetables. Dill deters cabbage beetles and basil deters tomato hornworm, for example. While others use their scent to attract pollinators like lovage, a tall, celery scented perennial herb. Some herbs like yarrow and comfrey improve the health of the plants around them by improving the soil. Both use their long tap roots to bring nutrients deep in the soil up to the surface to be used by other shallower rooted plants. And comfrey is an excellent mulch adding nutrients to the soil as its leaves break down. Additionally, herbs help the gardener by releasing their perfume to soothe and invigorate the weary weeder.
This is the potager, a French word for vegetable soup, filled to the brim with the practical and the beautiful. So break the rules and mix it up a bit!