Thursday, June 24, 2010

Potager Gardens

Potager Garden Definition: (pronunciation: puh ta zhay) a garden that combines both edible and ornamental plants; a vegetable garden that is utilitarian in nature but designed with beauty in mind; much like an English kitchen garden, but often formal and symmetrically designed in the French fashion. 

I love the idea of a potager garden. I don't know that I would want one to be so formal, but beautifully designed? Most certainly! I prefer to mix formal and informal elements together. Something perhaps... like this:

Photo Credit: Lisa Hubbard

While there is structure to this garden, it definitely has rustic elements, such as the fence and edging material. Also, the plants are neatly contained, but not in such a structured way that you feel you must be in your best dress to walk through it! And see the flowers casually mixed in?

Most of you are already vegetable gardeners, but have you considered adding marigolds alongside the tomatoes, zinnias next to the cucumbers, or sunflowers behind the green beans? How about roses along the outside of the fence?

While you may feel that your garden space is limited or producing enough vegetables for your family and a few neighbors is a priority, don't overlook the value that flowers alongside your veggies can add to your life...

• Some flowers are edible and can grace both your garden and your dishes. Pansies, nasturtiums, and lavender are all great to include in a potager garden. Here's a list of more edible flowers.

• Flowers can be visually soothing to the soul and soothing to the body as well since many are medicinal in nature. For a list of 15 medicinal flowers, read here.

• Flowers with high nectar concentrations can help attract bees to vegetables that are in need of pollination. They can also encourage beneficial insects to stick around your veggies while other flowers repel the bad bugs

• There are several combinations of flowers and vegetables that actually help each other. Who wouldn't want to give their vegetables a beautiful boost?

• A potager garden can be a colorful source of cut flowers from spring through fall, and in some areas, even winter. Flower cuttings in vases bring an element of the outdoors inside, but they also provide something for you to take to friends when visiting. What a blessing to be able to arrive at a friends house with a small bouquet of daisies or an armful of lilac branches!

Photo Credit: left-hand

Ideas For Adding Flowers To Your Vegetable Garden

• Consider adding a fence to define your garden space. It will not only deter animals (to a degree), but it will give you a backdrop to add plants. On the outside, add larger flower options such as roses, peonies, lilacs, and climbing vines. On the inside, grow tall flowers along the fence, such as sunflowers, and smaller vegetables in front of them.

• Use smaller flowering plants as borders and edges around your beds. Marigolds, pansies, and chives.

• Don't forget to add flowering herbs! Mixing these in around the garden can add fragrance, texture, and flavor to your vegetable dishes.

• You may wish to add a central bed to the garden, specifically for visual interest with flowers being part of the focus. An obelisk with a climbing vine surrounded by an array of flowers would make any gardener want to visit the veggies often!

• Consider mixing neat and formal plants with the casual and informal; for example, a row of flowers that are shaped in a compact mound alongside a lacy and slightly wild veggie, such as beans.

• Try growing a climbing vegetable alongside a climbing flowering vine. Let the two intermingle to create a beautifully unique look.

Photo Credit: Ilja

* If you've planted extra vegetables of a certain variety, allow some of them go to seed and flower out to enjoy their own unique beauty.

• If you really prefer things neat and tidy, you can always plant beds of flowers and vegetables separately, but next to each other, alternating between the two.

Photo Credit: UGArdener

A lovely garden doesn't happen over night. It often takes years of dreaming, planning, and hard work. By adding the element of flowers you can make the process a joy!

How have you incorporated flowers into your vegetable garden and what tips can you share?


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