Taking Root Column, Kristen Hamilton
Need to add a little tasty flair to your garden? Why not try some tasty edible ornamentals? Mixing in herbs with your perennial garden or adding veggies to your planters can add a pop of colour. And if your hungry while you’re out pulling those pesky weeds, you’ll have something to nibble on.
I recently planted a few window boxes for a friend of mine, and I needed to plant something in them to add some height, so I added Lemon Grass. Lemon Grass looks like a clump of tall grass reaching 24 inches and has a wonderful mild lemon scent when the leaves are rubbed or crushed. Lemon Grass also makes a wonderful cup of tea.
Other tasty additions that will give some extra foliage to your planters are lettuce greens and spinach. Look for a variety of different types of salad greens. Purple Basil is a great addition to any container that is located in the sun. Try mixing the purple basil with yellow Bidens. That would make a wonderful combination because the Bidens would trail over the side and the basil would fill in the centre making a wonderful statement.
Basil can be a little tricky to grow because you can wake up one morning and your whole plant could be chewed to a stump. The likely pest would be earwigs. The best way to take care of them is with soap and water. The trick to killing them is actually letting the earwigs come in contact with the soap and water mixture.
A very simple addition to any garden is nasturtiums. They are very simple to grow – just push some seeds into the earth and a few weeks later you will have a lovely mound of circle-shaped leaves and blooms of yellow, orange and red that are a wonderful addition to any salad. I have even done planters just filled with nasturtiums and they have filled out so nicely and it was very inexpensive.
A popular ornamental used as groundcover but also used at Thanksgiving to flavour turkeys is Thyme. Its does a wonderful job in the garden as a scented ground cover, or creeping between stepping stones. Thyme lets off a scent when stepped on. There are so many types of thyme like woolly, lemon, golden or mother. Thymes don’t tend to eat up your precious garden space and they are not as invasive as Bee Balm. They tend to be slow spreading and if you have a sunny and slightly sandy location thyme might be your solution to the problem of trying to figure out what to fill that void with.
Late in the fall be sure to plant your ornamental onions. Not typically grown for food, they do a lovely job in creating a statement in the spring garden with their large, round, airy purple flowers hovering above tall green stalks. Try a combination of Alliums, Tulips and Daffodils for a wonderful spring display.
Something that I have never tried, but look forward to trying once I find the right location, is the Alpine Strawberry. After reading and doing a little research I discovered that they make a great border plant because they don’t spread by stolons. They are ever-bearing which means they will produce berries all summer long as long as you make sure that you harvest the fruit as it ripens. Alpine strawberry does well in partial shade with slightly acidic soil.
A simple way to add some height or interest to your perennial garden to create a structure to grow beans, squash, cucumbers or even pumpkins. Squash plants can get very large, so try and train them to grow up a large old wooden ladder, which would make a very interesting feature in any garden. Or try growing some peas or pole beans on a trellis or fence.
Make your foundation plantings interesting by adding blueberry bushes, or try planting some bushes under pine trees. Blueberries love acidic soil and adding pine needles is one easy way to make the soil acidic. Blueberries need cross pollination so be sure to plant a few different varieties. If you have a bare spot in your lawn, try planting an apple tree such as the Roxbury Russet that produces bronze tinged skinned with white flesh apples that are great for eating. The Roxbury prefers rich soils and is fairly resistant to rust and apple scab.
If you want to get really creative, try creating an entire edible ornamental garden. You can add such perennials as Lavender and Lady’s Mantel, Chives and Iris. Another great addition would be purple sage, and don’t forget to incorporate a few ornamental Kale for some interesting foliage that will last all summer long.
Have fun and keep it interesting. Just Remember that you will not be the only one that will think your garden is tasty. Deer, Ground hogs and the friendly rabbit will be interested to see what is growing in your edible garden, too.
Kristen Hamilton has more than just a green thumb; she’s also a certified Landscape Technician. Hamilton has a BA in Applied Science as well, with a major in Landscape.