Choosing edible ornamental flowers
There is a vegetable zeitgeist afoot. Faced with flaccid processed produce and sticker shock at the checkout stand, many of us are looking at our gardens from a new perspective.
In a welcome departure from America's recent history of fast, global and factory food, we're developing a palate and a passion for fresh, seasonal fare and it doesn't get more local than outside our own back door. In the midst of hectic lives, busy schedules and economic anxieties, our gardens provide relaxation and relief.
Colorful blooms and interesting textures offer a vital connection with the environment. Vegetable plots discreetly segregated from "real" gardens are a thing of the past. Both types of gardens need attention and care; a double workload for time-strapped gardeners.
Combine edible plants with ornamental plantings - even in the smallest garden - and save time and money while you reap a delicious harvest. Picture a planting where calendula, dianthus, begonias and nasturtiums mingle with roses and raspberries, skirted with sprawling patches of delicious alpine strawberries.
Did you know that the juicy stems and colorful blossoms of tuberous begonias have a tart, lemon-like flavor?
• "Sunshine Blue" blueberries
• "Bull's blood" beet
• Rainbow chard
• Tricolor pole or bush beans
• Alpine strawberries
• Columnar or espaliered fruit trees
• Red and green leaf lettuces, such as "Merlot," a garnet colored butter lettuce
• Begonias, daylilies, roses and other edible flowers
Only employ organic pest controls when cultivating an ornamental/edible landscape.
Check out angieslist.com for local nurseries offering plants, seeds and valuable tips for a successful season.
Peppery-flavored nasturtiums and colorful calendula petals enhance fresh salads, while clove-scented dianthus, roses and raspberries combine for a heavenly dessert. Drape an arbor or wrap a front porch with hardy kiwi, passion fruit vines or grapes for a fruitful finishing touch.
From early spring through late fall, ornamental gardens that include edibles provide a feast for all five senses. Here are a few tips for creating a beautiful and delicious Northwest landscape.
Strong lines, raised beds, and pathways provide a constant framework to carry the design through seasonal shifts and accommodate gaps left by harvesting.
Most of the action in vegetable gardens takes place at ground level. Tepees, trellis supports, arches and fences provide valuable height and scale.
At the same time, these architectural elements provide vertical growing space for beans, peas, squashes, cucumbers and flowering vines and add a decorative touch.
Mother Nature by no means left color out of the edible garden. Select varieties in vibrant hues and place them in the same way that we use perennials and other ornamentals to create contrast and pleasing combinations.
Lorene Edwards Forkner, freelance writer, garden designer and food enthusiast, lives in Seattle and revels in the seasonal pleasures and broad scope of gardening in the Pacific Northwest. She's a contributing writer to Northwest Garden News and author of "Growing Your Own Vegetables."