A yellow finch perches on a basil plant. Photo by Lynn Stayton-EurellI am visiting an extraordinary garden where vegetables pop up in the flower border and flowers shine among the vegetables. Vegetables are often ornamental, especially if left to flower and go to seed as with cilantro, arugula, parsley and kale. When seedlings appear, they are transplanted into a new pattern for the next season’s crop. In this garden, parsley and thyme hedges surround geometric beds of early broccoli followed by green beans. Mexican sunflowers (tithonia) are interplanted with yellow, pink and lime green State Fair zinnias shading summer lettuces planted underneath.
Basil and garlic surround the tomatoes, each in its own square. When the garlic is dug out, fertilizer is added as the tomatoes set fruit. A few elephant garlics are left to flower just for fun. Egyptian onions with odd edible seed heads twist around in several places. Yellow onions have been dug but some are left to bloom with softball size seed heads.
Individual potatoes alternate with each cabbage and occasional blocks of leeks. When the potatoes are dug, okra is added while the cabbages are replaced with eggplants. To deter flea beetles, each eggplant has a dome of remay fabric supported by heavy wire hoops. Scarlet runner beans alternate with chicory along a section of fence with tapered tomato cages fastened a foot off the ground to allow them to grow taller in some places.
A six foot yellow coneflower (rudbeckia maxima) stands in one corner with an equally tall hollyhock in the diagonal corner. A parsnip has been left to go to seed also standing almost six feet tall with eight inch flower heads. These umbels attract beneficial insects so a few carrots are left to flower, also. A chartreuse hops (humulus ‘aureus’) climbs along a section of fence mixing with a dark purple hyacinth bean; both will cover the fence by the end of the summer. Everything, including potatoes, is well staked or supported by short fencing or strings to keep foliage out of the pathways.
Strawberries are planted at the garden edge and 12 blueberry bushes stand in the center of each border bed. Ornamental gourds climb along a fence section with large white flowers followed by an assortment of winged or twisted or spiky gourds which hang there until December when they are used in arrangements or for craft projects. Huge herbs are in ornamental pots, 2 kinds of mint, a sage, a lavender, and a rosemary.
Autumn clematis climbs over a garden statue and lotus buds are just starting to shoot up out of a watering trough. Several kinds of French marigolds are blooming throughout the garden to deter nematodes and the seed is collected for the next year. Nasturtiums and cucumbers trail through the peppers and melons are starting to climb in the corn; both planted in squares instead of rows. Flax and borage pop up here and there, in pots and among the beds. They deter potato bugs and add a nice touch of blue.
Some people might find this display a bit over-the-top, but it is eye-popping. I find myself laughing out loud each morning at the bright surprises we find when we go out to see what we will have to eat that day. We gardeners are so lucky to enjoy nature up close and personal.