I won’t pretend that the garden this year is anything like the superb ornamental plantings of veg at Villandry in France ( http://www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/ ) but the mix of flowers and veg in the garden this year is starting to look good. I have made the beds more complicated this year with threads of French marigolds weaving between the circles of veg in the large beds and other beds having edges of dark-leaved antirrhinums. These are from saved seeds from ‘Constantine’ a dark-leaved mix of colours. I saved seed from the pink and red plants with the darkest leaves and although not all the plants are the colour I wanted and there are a few yellows I am pleased that most as I wanted.
I used beetroot to make the basic circles for all the beds. This was because it could be harvested, a few from each ring, throughout the season without spoiling the effect and because the seeds are large and easy to sow. They are also attractive. I also used parsley to make rings because it is attractive and is useful in the kitchen.
After that I planted lots of violas to tie in the beds and then had the veg to sort out. I would have used more cabbages but I found I had some clubroot in some of the beds last year so in those I have planted resistant ‘Kilaxy’ but risked some kales in other beds.
The design and planting is a compromise, as it needs to be, between being ornamental and being useful – I have to grow edible crops. So there are flowers and herbs mixed in and as crops are harvested I will be planting and sowing more crops. Lettuce are the most useful crops of all because they are all beautiful and if you add some red-leaved lettuce to the mix it can be as pretty as a flower bed. I have not used as many hardy annuals as last year and I am fighting a tide of calendula seedlings which, though attractive, would spoil the effect – though I have sown some elsewhere. Most of the cabbages have been planted in a separate, new bed and carrots have been sown in their own bed, surrounded by fleece so they are missing from these beds. I did this because of the problems with carrot fly last year. Crops that are needed in large quantities, such as swede (turnip) and peas and broad beans have, largely, been planted in rows elsewhere.