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A Garden Good Enough to Eat

by User Not Found | May 09, 2013
(Image Source
by David Corscadden

Now that summer has arrived and days are getting longer, it is a great time to get out in the garden and enjoy working in it once more. Yet the minute you walk out the door, I bet you are struck with the question do I grow plants that will make my garden look beautiful or do I fill it with plants that will give me something back, in return for the time I will spend nurturing them?

With Grow Your Own becoming increasingly popular, people who find themselves getting their hands dirty in small gardens, may think they have to choose between the two. This is not the case though. There are many great edible plants that look great mixed into borders.
Rosemary and Lavender Herbs(Image Sources David Corscadden) 

Some of the most obvious plants to include in a garden are herbs. Herbs not only fill a garden with beautiful aromas but have the benefit of being useful in cooking. While many look brilliant planted in terracotta pots, I think that parsley, chives and basil really come into their own when planted in containers and places around patios or on outdoor tables. Chives in particular with their pink flower heads, later in the year, are perfect and easy grow. Rosemary with its glaucous foliage and pale blue flowers or lavender with its dusky purple flowers, both sit comfortably within flowerbeds. They can both also easily be used to edge beds and patios. Then of course there is bay. It seems to adorn every door step around the country. While it is has become very common and in places over used, it does play a great role for people looking for structural plants in small gardens.

While all these herbs seem pretty ordinary to have mixed in amongst flowers, there are some more unusual ones that I feel fit well into herbaceous borders. Dill and fennel with their great foliage add immense interest to garden as they move in the wind. The foliage of both is used in cooking and the roots of fennel make a great side dish when roasted alongside vegetables. Lovage is also a great plant to have towards the back of herbaceous borders, its dense foliage can grow tall and look great when under-planted with colour.
Pansies and Violas

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Vegetables too can add great interest to gardens, while providing bountiful returns to growers. Peas and runner beans grown up trellis or wigwams add height and floral interest to gardens. While fresh pods picked straight from the garden cannot be beaten, the flowers and young shoots also add great flavour to dishes. Rainbow chard and kale are two plants that I think look great planted along the edge of a flowerbed, as the leaves can add much needed texture. Chards in particular with their colourful stems are great to include. Similarly I find rhubarb mixes in perfectly into herbaceous borders and provide very generous crops as they mature.

While herbs and vegetables are great to have in a garden, I don’t think either can out do the array of edible flowers available to gardeners. The list of edible flowers that could be grown to add colour and interest seems endless. Nasturtiums are probably some of the best know edible flowers grown in Irish gardens. Their peppery flavoured leaves and flowers are great additions to salads. They are great to grow alongside trailing tomatoes in hanging baskets, creating a decorative salad bowl filler right at your back door. 
Marigolds and Sunflowers
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Some of my favourite edible flowers to grow year around are pansies and violas. Available in a multitude of colours, they are a great way to add a splash of colour to empty areas in flowerbeds or to windowsills and patios. Both pansies and violas make great garnishes to savoury dishes or when candied, pretty decorations to cakes, as do fragrant rose petals. Calendula and marigolds with their vibrant orange and yellow petals are spectacular at adding cheer to anywhere they are planted. Calendula is known as a poor man’s saffron adding a golden hue to foods. Honeysuckle (flowers only – the berries are very poisonous), sunflowers and chamomile of course could not be left out. Not only do they look great and can be used in cooking but attract pollinators and other beneficial insects to your new fruit and vegetables.

This is just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to edible plants, which will look great in gardens. It is important to remember though that not all flowers are edible and you should be sure before you bring them to the kitchen table.
David Corscadden

David's Bio:

David Corscadden is a soon to be graduate of horticulture from UCD. He is a green fingered plant lover whose passion for gardening started as child in Kildare and led to him starting his blog, Beyond the Wild Garden, that documents his journey with gardening and nature.