Kitchen Gardens - ‘Potagers’
This is for those of you who have fallen in love with your vegetable plots and appreciate that there is something special about being able to offer your family and friends vegetables, salads and fruits from your own garden.
Rather than simply planting things in rows, as did our grandfathers, why not make yourself an ornamental vegetable garden (also known as a ‘Potager’, from the French name for such gardens). It will increase your pleasure and pride in your vegetable gardening, as well as making the beds easier to care for (if you have smallish beds with paths around them, you don’t have to walk on the bed itself, and thereby avoid compacting down the soil).
The traditional pattern most often seems to have a round or square bed at the centre – sometimes with a sweet bay tree, or a fruiting cherry tree, or maybe a globe artichoke (Cynara Scolymus) - whether you enjoy eating the artichoke heads or not, the plant itself is the most beautiful fountain of silvery green.
Then what you choose to set around the hub is largely decided by your space available. My picture is of one very ornamental herb and salad patch I designed for a friend a couple of years ago. The uprights of the arches were to have climbing beans and peas (and yes, we did paint the arches that plum colour and they looked wonderful!), the beds had a mixture of salads and herbs and the edgings were mainly the edible flowers that you can add to salads – nasturtiums, chives, and the like.
We fenced and gated our little patch – to keep children and pets out, except that the children were allowed in to help, or pick, or eat, which they loved.
If the idea appeals to you, you can take inspiration from high and low for your design – a section of a patchwork quilt perhaps, or the magnificent world-famous kitchen gardens at Chateau Villandry in France (the website is gorgeous - www.chateauvillandry.com).
What is important is that the shapes are very well defined. You can edge your beds with painted wood as we did, or brick, tiles; whatever you like and can afford. Give the paths a little attention – roll in some gravel, stone chippings or even sand, anything that is pleasant to walk on and discouraging to plant life.
There are many useful websites (www.simplegiftsfarm.com), and even a book or two on the subject – so if the idea appeals – start planning!