Mellow yellow

Do you allow vegetables in your flower beds, or mix flowers in with your veg? Lots of books have lovely, inspirational photos of veg looking classy mixed in with flowers and there will be some here on the blog later, but it is not all plain sailing. When you harvest a cabbage or lettuce you leave a great hole in your border. It can be done but it needs careful planning and some back-up plants.

This year I had a lot of space to fill, grew thousands of fairly random plants and then combined them in all sorts of places; it was a bit of a case that anything is better than nothing and some things worked and others didn’t – but who dares wins after all! One of the new areas created was a pair of long ‘rainbow’ borders that graduate in colour from pink, through mauve to blue then red, orange, yellow and white. I am not going to be too restrictive about this but it gives me a rough structure to stick to and then I can add contrasts for impact.

I was scrabbling around for something for the yellow area and hadn’t got a lot of choice because most of what I was growing in the yellow and orange hues was for a set of new ‘hot’ borders – if you ask I will show you. But I had sown some Papaver ‘Solar Fire Sunbright’ – a short (40cm), yellow Iceland poppy, as well as a taller mixture, and these were looking good by early May. The beds had been prepared, the turf laid and the soil was bare so I was ready to do some planting and although it was too early to risk half hardy plants, these poppies are hardy. I wanted something to go with them and I had some spare yellow leaf beet (Swiss chard) plants looking for a home. So I combined the two in front of a clump of five ‘Oranges and Lemons’ roses, watered and waited for the results. I didn’t have to wait long and by June the poppies were flowering their socks off and the beet looked lovely behind it, the yellow stems matching the poppies perfectly. The hot summer meant that the poppies ran out of steam despite fairly regular deadheading and the beet ran to seed, reaching 1.5m high at their peak of beauty but then had to be pulled out by August. The great thing about this planting is that really it would be better done in autumn. Both plants are hardy so if you sowed the poppies in June and planted them in September and sowed the chard in August they would both be at their finest in April and May. You could add some tulips in yellow, gold or orange for some seasonal zing too. Oh, and you can pick some chard leaves for a meal too when you feel like it!

Maybe the colour match is to close - two plants providing a contrast in form but the same colours

Maybe the colour match is to close – two plants providing a contrast in form but the same colours

This idea would also work in a large pot and you could substitute yellow winter pansies for the poppies if you want the same look on a smaller scale.

Tip – pick the best colour

I sowed the chard in cell trays. I sowed two ‘seeds’ per cell and thinned out the seedlings to leave a single one when each had about one true leaf and i could easily see which plants had the best colour. You will find considerable variation in red and yellow chard and if show is more important than taste then pick the prettiest.

Papaver Solar Fire ‘Sunbright’ 45cm

Johnsons £2.20 for 200 seeds


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One Comment on “Mellow yellow”

  1. joy
    December 4, 2013 at 7:54 am #

    like this idea very much . have been busy digging all borders and with all that winter bareness my mind already thinking what to fill them with next year . also loved madam butterfly from yesterdays thank you

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