Vegetable areas in your garden – It is perfectly possible to make even the most utilitarian parts of the garden attractive in their own right, though a potager or ornamental kitchen garden will require rather more thought, and probably more labor, than a strictly practical one.
In an ordinary plot, vegetables are often left in the ground for some considerable time, even when they have become mildewed or pest-damaged. In the potager, some loss of productivity is therefore inevitable, since vegetables will be dug up when their decorative value has faded away.
Some vegetables are more stalwart than others. The winter-hardy leeks retain a handsome appearance throughout the winter; perpetual spinach takes a long time before it looks moth-eaten; and the colored-leaved lettuces remain attractive for several weeks. Brassicas are prey to many pests, and vegetables such as summer spinach, summer lettuce, and Chinese vegetables run quickly to flower.
Cabbages and kale mixed with fall flowers
To provide some kind of interest, use productive plants as short- or long-term structural elements: raspberries grown as ‘exclamation marks’ on single posts; Ballerina apple trees; restricted forms of fruit trees grown over arches or as see-through barriers; fruit trees and bushes used as standards, as boundaries, and to clothe walls.
Supplement these architectural elements with short-term summer plants: colored cultivars of climbing French bean; ornamental squashes; and trailing marrows and vegetable spaghetti – all of which are equally suitable for climbing over arches or arbors.
Colored-leaved herbs, such as the sages and thymes, are an invaluable addition to the potager garden. They are excellent as ground-cover, for edging beds, planted to spill over paving, or to grow in gravel.
Attractive cultivars of vegetables are legion: multicolored cabbages; alpine strawberries with variegated leaves; striped tomatoes; colored sweet peppers; even blue-leaved leeks.
The way plants are arranged can also be attractive. In your garden don’t be afraid to mix flowers with your vegetables; not just marigolds and nasturtiums but scented flowers and foliage of all kinds. Just avoid poisonous plants; they are particularly unsuitable for this kind of planting in the vegetable areas.
The potager is in essence formal, but square or triangular blocks of plants look more attractive than long straight lines. Traditional but ornamental objects can be used to enhance the appearance and atmosphere of vegetables garden. Rhubarb and strawberry pots are widely available, but you may have to search further afield for bell and lantern cloches.
Rhubarb in the container