I love the unexpected look of vegetables growing with ornamentals. Several years ago when we visited Paris, I found many public gardens featured a riot of cabbages, lettuces and colorful beets, all corralled by classic clipped boxwood hedges. Fun.
Yet, my own efforts to plant this way have been disastrous. Last year, I boldly grew tomatoes where no tomatoes had gone before—between the rose bushes. Bad choice. The vigorous vines scrambled out of their cages in all directions. Ever try picking a tomato out of a rose bush?
So this month I’m turning to Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping—Now You Can Have Your Gorgeous Garden and Eat It Too! The book is newly updated and greatly expanded from her 1982 classic, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping. It’s the go-to guide for everything you want to know about designing with fruits and vegetables, whether in a greenhouse or open ground. (Full disclosure—a photo of my grape arbor dining patio appears in the introduction.)
My main question for Ros—what is the best vegetable to plant with ornamentals? Also, a follow up question—which edibles grow quickest so they can be pulled out as other plants fill in?
Good Neighbor Veggie Expectations
Ros holds vegetable partners to high standards. Edibles that play well with others should be good looking, and have neat habits. They won’t need trellising and won’t sprawl over their neighbors. (So most vining veggies don’t make the cut in this category.)
Another attribute is disease resistance. A good buddy vegetable does not have or spread diseases—out out, you mildewed zucchini!
Ros also values high productivity. She is partial to edibles that “pull their own oar,” as she puts it, “because they produce well for the space they occupy.”
Best Edibles among the Ornamentals
And the winner is—peppers! Ros recommends all peppers, both sweet and hot. She says most kinds will keep their good looks into autumn, with a long period of productivity. Ros endorses attractive varieties like compact chilies and baby bells. For vigorous sweet peppers, she suggests ‘Blushing Beauty’, ‘Cherry’ and ‘Pimento’.
Runners-up would be all kinds of kale and collards.
As for my second question—which edibles can grow up quickly and then be removed to allow for burgeoning neighbors?—Ros favors both basil and chard (all colors). When their blossoms develop (turning the leaves bitter) they can be pulled out and new plants tucked into other available spaces. # # # #