We’ve been seeing some truly beautiful vegetable gardens this summer. Word has clearly got out that many of our favorite edibles have highly ornamental foliage that don’t need to be hidden away. Not only that but by looking for fun color echoes and contrasts you can create some striking vignettes and combinations.
Our new book will showcase a few ideas but we thought you’d like a peek into our photo library to see what happens when you build a design by putting foliage FIRST – even if you’re going to eat it later – and add other colorful leaves, flowers and accessories.
Surprising Color Inspiration
Beans and peas are a summer staple and quickly smother a trellis with lush leaves and dangling pods. Some varieties of bean have golden leaves, a few have colorful flowers and there are some exciting colored beans to choose from too but what do you do when yours are just ordinary green-leaved green-beans?
The design above was the mastermind of Whidbey Island, WA gardener/designer Elaine Michaelides as she selected lilies that echo the color of the structure behind it. These tall lilies grow as tall as the beans bringing color just where you need it. Stunning.
Look around – do you have a colorful chair, container or cushion you can use as a springboard?
Keep it Simple
This easy combo was part of a street-side planting in Langley on Whidbey Island, WA.
What about yellow chard with golden grasses? Bowle’s Golden sedge (Carex elata ‘Aurea’) would be pretty in a partially shaded setting.
Or the finely green and white variegated Overdam feather reed grass (Calamgrostis x acutiflora ‘Overdam’) with white chard for full or part sun.
A movable feast
Artichokes are undeniably one of the most exciting, architectural vegetables in the garden with wide deeply serrated silver foliage and tall stems that bear blue thistle-like flowers followed by the edible artichoke itself.
Silver can read rather ‘grey’ in the garden, however, unless you brighten it with something fun like sunny yellow as the gardeners at Epcot did last year. They planted the artichoke in a vivid yellow wheelbarrow and surrounded it with yellow daisies – fabulous! Trailing bronze sweet potato vine tumbling from the wheelbarrow adds a finishing touch and ties visually to the nearby purple chair (and the color of the soon to follow artichoke blooms). Genius.
Small Space Solutions
Even if you only have tiny planting pockets such as these pallet gardens, you can still get a designer look. Notice how the edible foliage textures and colors vary yet order is achieved by planting just one variety per row. A bright yellow chair and a few strips of cheery annuals makes sure the pollinators come to visit as well creating as a visual feast for us.
This pumpkin mingles happily with golden hyssop, coral bells and abelia in a street-side planting in Langley, WA – and why not? Big, bold leaves and sunny yellow flowers as well as attractive fruit make this every bit as ornamental as neighboring shrubs.
I do something similar with my rhubarb and grow it in front of rhododendrons. The deer don’t eat it so there’s no reason for me to take up space in my fenced vegetable garden and I love the ornamental value it adds to the border.
What good ideas have you seen this summer? Leave us a comment below or tell us on Facebook!
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