Ornamental Edibles

 In Vegetables

Ornamental edibles can hold their own with flowers!

In fact some ornamental edibles are not only good enough to eat but can upstage many of the flowering plants we grow!

There are masses of beautiful vegetables to grow!



Of course many ornamental edibles are salad vegetables and are very quick growing. They are ready to harvest in a relatively short time so their impact in the garden can be short term.

But others, such as those in the cabbage family, are around and showy for many months.

red cabbage cut in half,

Beautiful red cabbage

Purple sprouts can be dramatic if planted close to grey leaf plants such as lavender or Elaeagnus and they create an impact for at least half the year.

Similarly red cabbage has a rich deep colour with a grey bloom. Because of its bulk and squat growth habit it’s a good subject for the front edge of a sunny border or a large pot.





I recall that a visit to The Pig near Bath  set me thinking about how under-used colourfulflowering kale in an urn, ornamental edibles ornamental edibles are in our gardens.

At this restaurant I was stopped in my tracks by the spectacle of flowering kale and cabbages. These were glorious and growing in stone urns on raised plinths!

What a spectacular display of plants literally ‘going to seed’!

But why not?

These kale and cabbages are capable of providing colour and texture from the middle of summer right through the winter to produce this final hurrah!




Lettuce and Salads


Multi-coloured lettuce

Coloured lettuce at The Newt, Somerset

Lettuce is no longer boring green.

Those ‘cut and come again’ varieties have added so much more to this stable salad vegetable.

Curly, wavy and oak leaf varieties add varying shape but, when you add rich colour too, you not only have great colour on a plate but also in pots and edging the fronts of borders!




Feathery Fennel

fennel flowers

Feathery fennel in bloom

Similarly eye catching blooms can be found on fennel.

The feathery aniseed scented leaves are so finely cut and contrast well with plants that have bold solid leaves.

The fennel’s tall parsley-like blooms [up to a metre high] are a magnet for small insects.

But take care to remove the seed heads before this one ripens as it is an excellent garden colonizer!



globe artichoke head

Globe artichoke head

Globe artichokes can produce even greater impact in the flower border!

Being truly perennial they  produce dramatic foliage from March right through until November!

Each toothed grey leaf can be almost a metre long. And when planted with red-leaf beetroot they produce a very dramatic show!

Of course the French potager is the classic case of use of attractive vegetables to both please the eye and the cook.



Some herbs justify their place in pots on the terrace. But also inter-planted among hardy perennials or bedding plants for their good looks too!

Crested curly-leaf parsley, like those crinkled leaf lettuce, may be just green but what a green!

Being a biennial, parsley will keep on producing leaves for a garnish of sauce but look great in the garden too.

In its second year it will produce a green flower that in itself is attractive.

Equally the golden form of oregano is a superb ground covering plant for poor soil in a sunny place. When the flowers come then so will the butterflies! Because butterflies love the flowers of oregano.

chive flowers, herbs

Chive blooms

When you see chives in flower, it is hard to believe that this is a plant that we use predominantly as an edible.

The purple pompoms blooms, just like the flowers of the oregano, are loved by bees and butterflies.



Other Edibles

Of course some vegetables look great in pots!

Beans in a pot

Bean Dwarf Runner Hestia

The dwarf runner bean ‘Hestia’ is a prime example.

Hestia’s compact habit and mass of bicolour blooms make this a serious contender for the terrace.




red chillies

Red Chilies






Providing later colour in pots, some varieties of chilies look fabulous!

‘Apache’ or ‘F1 Chilly’ are just a couple of many that will be showy well into winter.









micro-greens, Ornamental edibles

Varied colourful micro-greens

When winter comes it is not just the Brassica plants growing outside that give great edible colour.

Micro-greens can do it too!

This is the most fleeting of all pretty edibles but the results are just as rapidly achieved.

Sowing a mixture of coloured leaf micro-greens can produce colour indoors in just a few days.








What varieties of vegetables do you grow for their decorative effect?

Which flower and vegetable combinations work well for you?

Have you seen good examples of vegetable and flower combinations in other gardens and, if so, in which gardens?



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