controlled chaos

I often have trouble mixing ornamentals and vegetables together in a garden bed that’s supposed to be “for company,” a bed that’s meant to be attractive as well as containing tasty-looking plants that you’d like to take to the dinner table.



Some parts of the garden where I’ve snuck veggies in with the other plants look a little chaotic, but here’s a patch that I really like the looks of. Earlier I showed part of this corner that the bedroom window overlooks. But new things are starting to bloom, and the colors are starting to really click for me.

When I was putting this bed together, I set myself the main rule of “nothing yellow.” In deciding what veggies to place there, I just stuck to that organizing principle. (Okay, can you tell that I work in libraries and organize information during the week?)

This bed features several edibles: red-stemmed chard, orange-stemmed chard, Red Winter red Russian kale, red beets, plus catmint for tea (and for the cat). The ornamentals include scarlet geum, purple heliotrope, violet blue-eyed grass, the salmon-colored bulb Homeria collina, two blue sages (Salvia sagittata and Salvia cacaliaefolia) plus a few other things not in bloom.

For sure, there’s a lot of red and blue and purple going on here. But several variations on green in the background green do wonders to pull together what might otherwise be chaos.

I’m going to hate cutting any of these veggies for dinner…

9 thoughts on “controlled chaos”

  1. I’ve seen this Victory Gardens but I think it’s wonderful to see it. Not only that but the right mix of veggies with flowers is quite beautiful.

  2. Looks good! I’ve been thinking of mixing some vegetables into my perennial garden for the last couple of years- maybe this will be the year!

  3. Yes, it looks very good-not chaotic, just nicely snuggled. Maybe you can fill in where the veggies come out with some other veggies-not yellow of course. And no, I did not know you worked in a library but I can see where the organization would come from now that I know. Have a great weekend James.

  4. It’s gorgeous! I haven’t tried growing vegetables because I don’t like any of them, and neither does my fiancee – and most of the herbs I planted for food purposes died. But if I someday manage to grow food successfully, I would like to use it ornamentally. And I’d be happy for any of my beds to look as good as these, whether or not they contain edible plants.

  5. I started mixing veggies with roses and flowers last year and quite loved the effect. Your combinations look great. I love red-stemmed chard ~ it is almost impossible to pick the veggies because they look so good.

  6. Charles, the victory garden idea is a great one. If an ornamental needs to be replaced, why not put an interesting-looking veggie in its place?

    Laura, go for it! Picking perennial veggies–like kale–might be in keeping with your perennial garden theme.

    Tina, thanks very much. I try not to be too compulsive in life, but an occasional bit of organizing doesn’t seem to hurt things…

    Helen, I think some veg plants have such a short life compared to many other plants in the garden, so short that it’s hard to get them looking good and keep them that way for long. But I’d guess that there’s a garden situation for just about anything. It’s just finding that right combination.

    Gayle, good luck getting the herbs to hang on. Some of the herbs are amazingly gorgeous plants on their own.

    Kate, it’s fun to break down the wall between edibles and ornamentals isn’t it? Along the way I found that my veggies grow way better alongside the flowers than in their old, exhausted veggie bed.

  7. Looks nice. We try to grow perennials in our veggie beds, too. Some people claim that the perennial roots keep the beneficial bacteria levels higher.

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