Until recently, the word “vegetable garden” was associated exclusively with a fenced-in fence of six acres of land, with long beds and fields of potatoes. But times are changing, now gardeners increasingly want garden plantings not only to be beneficial, but also to look beautiful and well-groomed. So why not turn our vegetable gardens into a complete garden design element.
An ornamental garden is a plant composition of vegetable, fruit and flower crops. Any plant, if you look closely at it during a particular growing season, in addition to utilitarian functions, is also decorative in nature. So, at the beginning of growth and during flowering, peas are decorative, dill and parsley have openwork foliage, and in beets it is intensely colored. Potatoes, peppers and bush tomatoes can become accent, eye-catching plants in an ornamental garden.
Many garden flowers are not only decorative, but their flowers can also be used for food. That is why primroses, geraniums, calendula, nasturtium and roses can also decorate such a vegetable garden.
There are many varieties of lettuce with a variety of leaf shapes and colors. And spicy-aromatic plants: oregano, thyme, basil, lovage, mint, lemon balm attract not only the smell, but also the texture of the leaves. The professional interest of designers in the decorative properties of vegetable crops has not faded over the years, which is confirmed by the compositions presented in different years at international exhibitions of garden art in England, France, Estonia.
Such a decorative vegetable garden will look most organically in a rural style garden that combines artistic elements with consumer functions. These utilitarian gardens trace their history back to small English cottage gardens that cultivated vegetables, herbs and cut flowers. Unlike a traditional village plot with potato fields and vegetable beds that require tireless maintenance, such a garden is created as a place for outdoor recreation.
At one of the garden design exhibitions in Chelsea, London, The Thomas Telford Toll House Garden was presented, based on the interpretation of a rural garden. Its creators placed a front garden in front of the house, combining functionality and aesthetics: a mixborder and a decorative vegetable garden. Along the walls of the building and the fence, flowers are easy to care for: cornflower, lupine, daisy, foxglove, daisy, soapwort, yarrow, variegated whitewash and red-leaved plantain. The background of the "garden composition" is peas curling on a trellis, at the foot of which a row of beans with crimson flowers and bluish foliage is planted. Young plants of red cabbage have something in common with beans in leaf color, and in texture they contrast with the openwork foliage of carrots. In addition, the composition includes chives, bush beans, fennel and other garden plants.
Even under the French king Louis XV, not only violets were sold on the streets of Paris, but also bouquets of potato flowers. And in our time, French designers continue to equip sites, combining "beautiful and edible, functional and useful" in one plant composition. The Chaumont sur Loire Garden Art Festival is more modest than the English Chelsea Show in scale, but the projects presented at it are more viable, since they have existed on the exhibition area for six months and have an area comparable to the size of an average suburban area.
Many landscape architects perceive this Festival as a platform for creative experimentation and self-expression.Consider two projects presented at the festival, in which original garden elements are used, organically complementing the composition of the ornamental garden.
The project, called Beautiful, is a tribute to grandparents, which is why it was created around an old knotty olive tree. In the makeshift summer kitchen with stove and cupboards, all kinds of blanks are on display. Isn't it very similar to our garden plots. Several patio areas are decorated with vegetable and ornamental plants: lettuce, Swiss chard, zucchini and herbs. Separate areas of the garden are separated by a low wall of red clay with jars of pickles embedded in it. This impromptu cookbook contains over 200 family recipes.
In the "Mixing" project, the Directorate of Green Spaces and the Environment of Paris presented a "garden table", located on 2 levels. The ornamental garden on the lower level is divided into squares by a red metal mesh. She clearly differentiates the plantings of onions, parsley, celery, basil, lettuce and bush beans from each other, creating an original graphic design. Climbing plants and grasses are planted in the containers of the second level, and rusty shovels are the vertical accent.
You can also decorate your decorative garden with a straw scarecrow, contrasting plant supports or an original dividing wall - you just need to show a little imagination.
In October 2009, Tallinn hosted the "First International Flower and Garden Festival", which was attended by landscape designers from Estonia, Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Sweden, Finland. Participants presented projects on one of two themes: "Medieval Garden" or "Garden of the 21st Century".
The organizers of the exhibition considered that when creating gardens in these areas, modest flowers and inexpensive building materials should be used. If in the Middle Ages this was due to the lack of materials, then in our time, "laconicism" is a conscious choice of designers. In several projects, a "decorative vegetable garden" was also presented, as one of the elements of medieval gardens, echoing with modernity.
Estonian designers were inspired by the Italian cuisine to create the project “Italian Style Vegetable Garden”. The central area, lined with stone slabs, allows you to get close and take care of the plants. The garden will be diversified by clay pots of various sizes with spicy herbs. Sitting on a simple wooden bench in a secluded corner of the garden, you can enjoy the work done and admire the plants in the garden mixborder. The accent of the composition is undoubtedly the artichoke. Green and red-leafed salads contrast well in the border, and sage and basil are used as fillings.
Another group of Estonian designers decided to reuse old waste materials in garden design. This idea came to the creators of the project after visiting the Gunnebo manor near Gothenburg, where vegetables grow in plastic bags. Parsley, onions, thyme and mint are planted in old rusted buckets, barrels and tubs. Some containers are painted or decorated with burlap. Before the arrival of guests, such a small, decorative vegetable garden can be easily converted to make room for relaxation. And with the onset of autumn, it is enough to empty the vessels, and the garden is ready for winter without unnecessary hassle. Hence the name - "The Garden Traveling in Vessels" appeared.
A small decorative garden is presented in the project "City Garden of the Bachelor". Plant containers installed directly on the grass make it possible to experience the richness of nature even in the heart of the city. The gazebo in the center of the garden is a place where you can relax and have a snack.Blooming potatoes, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, greens decorate the garden, and the water in a miniature canal creates a favorable microclimate for humans and plants.
A decorative garden on your site may well be made in the form of a monastery garden. The definition of the "monastery garden" as a garden of medicinal herbs has survived to this day, because it was in the monasteries that the first botanical collections were formed. The shape of such a garden should be rectangular or square, with cruciform paths along the main axes. In the center, at their intersection, build a stone well or a fountain. These water structures can also be used to water your ornamental garden.
On square plots, you can plant greens: spinach, parsley, dill, sorrel, garlic, fennel and others. In addition, aromatic and medicinal herbs can grow here: lemon balm, oregano, basil, catnip, valerian and various types of mint. In the garden, a place can be allocated for ornamental plants used in cooking or for making a variety of teas. These are garden forms of cornflower and yarrow, calendula, monarda, St. John's wort. Such a garden should be located at the southern wall of a building or fence, since the listed cultures are demanding on heat and light. Along the perimeter, it can be surrounded by trellis, entwined with hops and honeysuckle, or by a dense green hedge of buldenezh viburnum, wild rose or mock-orange.
The “medieval garden” presented at the Tallinn Festival is interpreted by designers as a closed, isolated space. In the design of the garden-vegetable garden, elements characteristic of that time were used: tall flower beds and beds decorated with a willow twig, covered with crushed bark of the path. And the table and benches, located in the center of the garden, are braided with branches and covered with turf. Vegetable and ornamental plants common in the Middle Ages are planted in the garden: cabbage, salads, parsley, nasturtium, morning glory, peas, calendula, rue, sage, basil and others.
When starting to design a decorative garden, remember that it should be located in a well-lit, elevated place. Traditional beds are difficult to organically fit into the landscape, so there is a need for their clear isolation from other areas of the site. Non-standard beds in the form of various geometric shapes, on the contrary, can be arranged as decoration even in the front area of the site.
When looking from afar at another Estonian project, it may seem that only flowers planted in the form of a pattern are used in it. However, coming closer, you are convinced that it is rather a vegetable garden and each plant in it is useful in its own way. Some are used for food, others for treating or enjoying their scent. So, tall nasturtiums, braiding bamboo pyramids, decorate the composition and bloom throughout the summer: they are vertical accents. Ornamental cabbage contrasts in color with the orange flowers of nasturtium, and in shape echoes the curly parsley that fills the "flower bed". The cuff with bluish rounded foliage in the border collects and summarizes the entire composition.
Nowadays, very often young families - the heirs of the “first summer residents” - become the owners of the plots. For them, a project with an avant-garde decorative garden will be interesting, as it blurs the lines between garden and home. In the “home garden,” a zucchini “sits” in an armchair, and sweet peas twist along the railing of a crib, bright nasturtium hangs from the TV, chard and marigolds create a flowering feather bed on the bed, and strawberries with marjoram cover the ground with a cozy carpet. Such a blooming bedroom, according to its authors, symbolizes complete harmony between man and nature.
The vegetable compositions we have considered, made in various styles, combine the traditions of a particular culture with the original findings of designers.You can choose as a basis any project that you like and that suits your lifestyle, that best suits your taste and character.
Where to begin?
If you decide to create a decorative vegetable garden on your site, you need to seriously approach its design, as well as to create any plant composition. First of all, draw a preliminary plan of the garden, taking into account the area allotted for it and paying attention to the color and pattern of the projected composition. Then make a list of plants that you would like to plant in your ornamental garden by grouping them: vegetables, herbs, herbs, cut flowers, and others. Then select their varieties that are most suitable in color, texture and shape for your composition. When choosing plant varieties, it is necessary to take into account the maturation of crops and the peak of their decorative effect.
Since the creation of such a vegetable garden involves the use of plants for food, it is necessary to provide for the possibility of replacing crops, taking into account their compatibility and crop rotation. On a separate sheet with a picture of the general view of the vegetable garden to scale, determine the amount of planting material. Create a planting drawing, as when planning any flower garden, and start doing it in the spring.
I wish you the best of luck in creatively transforming your familiar garden beds into a decorative garden!