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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 11:07 am 
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Location: Aquasco, Southern Maryland
Hi!
I am very interested in plants which could be planted for aesthetic value alone but which have the added benefit of being utilitarian in the kitchen as well.

The "official" definition of a potager is plants which are used in the kitchen - "for the pot" - but are planted in an ornimental or aesthetically pleasing fasion. I really do more of a cottge garden style, mixing:

Veggies disguised as ornimentals
Herbs, Useful (edible or theraputic)
Herbs, Historical (ones I wouldn't actually subject my family to using - such as digitalis)
Flowers, Edible
Other plants I can't resist

I'd be interested in knowing what you like to use in a potager, or cottage garden type plants with uses beyond ornimentation.

Here are some of my favorites:

Strawberries
Strawberries make a great edging or border plant. I also use them as a "living mulch" underplanting in my iris beds. This year I tried them alternating with Dianthus (mixed multi-colour) and they look terrific. The strawberries offer a rather hardey (drought resistant) and highly textured foliage, white anemone-like blossoms, and, of course, fruit. They are also eager to propogate, sending out al the runners you could want. (I am trying setting excess "runner-babies" directly in to sunken pots, to make them easier to give away.)
(Anyone got a suggestion for an edible flower or otehr plants to replace the dianthus with? I had chosen dianthus because the red-and-white flowers complimented the strawberreis adn because they are perennials, which I greatly prefer over annuals. Dianthus, while technically an historical medicinal, is not as utilitarian a plant as I would like to use near the kitchen.)

Purple Podded Pole Beans
I got a packet from the Vermont Bean Seed COmpany years ago and just keep saving a handful of the fattest seeds each fall for next year's planting. Some years, they self-seed! (That's here in Southern Maryland, ZOne 7. It doesn't happen for my Mum, up in New Hampshire where they have harsher winters.)
The flowers are pretty and the purple bean pods are also ornimental. How can you not love a bean that turns form blend-in-amongst-the-stems green to here-I-am! purple just when it reaches the perfect stage for harvesting? Clematises for the cottatge garden, PPP's for the potager - at least until someone shows me a recipe for celmatis besides its uses as an astringent and antiseptic (since Roman times).

Climbing Spinach (also called Malabar Spinach)
Available in plain green or with purple or red stems. A lush-looking annual vine. (Anyone know whether it's a perennial in the tropics?) Here in Zone 7 it will flower and set seed. (Note - plant seeds the very next year if you save them, and plant all in any packets you buy; they don't hold over for future years very well.)
The young leaves are nice enough but the older leaves are a bit tough. Fine whizzed thorough the food proccessor for making sag (Indian spinach base in which veggies or meat is simmered). Spinach puree is also good as an ingredent in a lasagna layer or to bulk up an overly strong pesto.

Cukes, "Lemon"
This is the most ornimental climbing cuke I have found - so far... But they are not the most productive variety. I like cukes because they will grow up a 15' trellis and are large enough that they are worth getting up a ladder to crop them. You can even reach up with a split-end stick and nip the vine at the base of a fruit to drop it to the ground if you don't want to bother with a ladder or use a pruning hook. Just be sure to set something on the ground for the cukes to fall on, or be ready to use and that bruise quickly.

Kiwi
Pretty tough, and drought-resistant once established. reasonably heavy cropping fruit, much less suseptable to insect damage than grape vines. Good for both Northern and Southern gardens. Use in place of wistera - which is only at its peak for a short season anyhow.

Jerusalem Artichokes
Also called sunchokes, these are hardy native perennial sunflowers. While not as ornimental as big-flowering "seed sunflowers," these are a great addition to the potager. They are fine for the back row. Bound their bed, as you would a bed of mint or horse radish, or they may psread more than you want. The roots are a fine veggie, with a good flavor. Not as heavy a cropper as potatoes, but a whole lot prettier. Will tolerate poor soils and drought farily well, but rewards rich soil and moderate wartering most gratifyingly.

Carrots
The humble carrot has beautiflly feathery leaves. The wild carrot, or Queen Anne's Lace, is also an edible of venerable tradition, but, frankly, I can't recommend it functionally, but do grow it as an historical herb; that excuse is valid for a remarkable range of ornimentals, but is more appropriate to the cottage garden than the more functional potager.

Basils
There's such a range available now! I plant a dozen different varieties. The traditional Large-Leaved Dark Green Italian is the most functional basil, with very hearty plants prodicing a large volume of full-flavored leaves, perfect for use as an accenting herb in salads, or as a leafy vegitable in stir-frys (maybe mix half-and-half with spinach, chard, or something with a more mild flavor), and, of course, for canning pesto.
I recommend Lemon Basil as the single finest of the flavored basils, and Black Opal as the heartiest of the more ornimental purple basils, althought Purple Ruffles comes close.
Note that the purples and other ornimentals are perfectly fine for the kitchen, and respond well to heavy cropping (nip off the end, right above the leave buds at the leaf stem bases, forcing it to branch at every joint), but the colors have little impact on the flavor. Crop (and use) all older leaves before they begin to fade.

Fancy Lettuces
These make great "fillers" or ground covers in even the most formal of parterres. There are some terrific reds and purples with quite extravagant leaf forms. Nip out the center when harvesting, leaving the root and base leaves to re-grow. Lettuces are fine in full sun with enough water, and suprisingly shade tolerant (but not as hearty) if not over-watered.

Ornimental Cabbages
No, not those horrid things they market as ornimental cabbages! I mean minis, reds, and purples. Am I the only one who thinks a big, full, tight cabbage is as fine a sight as any rose?

Roses (see Cabbages, above)
You must make up a batch of rose jelly or some such if you want to justify it in a potager. Otherwise you are a cottatge gardner - which is not such a bad thing, after all!

Russian Sage
Yes, you can use this in cooking, just as any regular sage. I have plain old green sage from three different sources - and each blooms a different color! So, just because you have a plant is no reason not to swap fora potentially different strain.

Rhubarb
Red is especially fine as a "middle row" foliage plant - and I am an especially big fan of perennial edibles. Will take full sun with a bit of watering, but will also tolerate partial shade well. Think of it as the temperate "Elephants' Ears Plant" - but tasty as well!
You may find the green varieties easier to grow. Growing conditions seem (to my experience) to affect flavor more than color, and color by itslef seems less a factor than particular variety.
Remember, tehy produce a lot and need a commensurately heavy feeding regime.

Asperagus
High-as-you-can-reach tall, elegant feathery perfusion, I don't know why some enterprising nursery doesn't just market this for its pruely ornimental qualities! I grow fountains of asperagus flanking my gourd arbor. And talk about tasty! But do leave them alone a year or two until they settle in. After, they will produce bountiful sprouts.
Like rhubarb, asperagus need to be fed as richly as they produce, cropped or no.

Kale
There are some hansome kales out htere, especially the curly sorts.

Chard
Like kale, a tough, dependable crop for many, and liekwise with substantial ornimental value, espeically in the red varieties. (I don't find the other colors offered to be as hansom as the red.) If you crop regularly, you can keep it from bolting for several seasons.

Eggplant
I think all eggplant have ornimental value, but most especially prefer the striped Japanese vartieties. But, we have fleabeetles and otter pests which preclude growing eggplants in the open, and I just don't like growing under row-cover cloth. Sigh...

Oregano
I like oregano as much for its butterfly-attracting qualities as for use as an herb

Parsley
Grow enough for you and enough for the caterpillars! The mourning cloak swallowtails grown on the parsley are among my favorite "flying flowers." Anyone know a good resource for ID-ing butterflies, matching them to their caterpillars, and listing the favored foods of adult and caterpillar stages?

Boneset
This isn't a very utilitarian plant, but it is SUCH a "butterfly magnet" that I recommend it anyhow. For those not familiar with this medicinal herb, it's a relative of Joe Pye, but shorter, more compact, and white, rahter than pruple. (Joe Pye will grow a dozen foot tall, and is a terrific back-row plant if you've room for it, but really isn't justified in a pure potager. OK, now someone send me a recipe and prove me wrong - please!)

Prickly Pear
Yes, this cactus in native to Maryland! Um, I have no idea how closely our native variety is related to what folk Out West would call a "real prickly pear," but we have a cactus suitable for the potager. It's a sprawly thing, which drops pads and propagates well in full sun where not too damp and where it isn't out-competed by outer plants. The yellow flowers are edible (buy why bother?) and the pad are also edible and can be split open and used as natural self-adhesive bandages (um, maybe after removing those very irritating prickles!). The fruit isn't bad tasting, and has enough pectin to help a mixed jam set up well.
And yes, it's as drought-resistant as you'd expect a cactus to be.

Can anyone recommend edible flowers beside nasturtiums that provide enough blossoms with enough flavor that they "earn their keep" in a potager? I find roses and violets and wisteria and such are insipid and, while a delight as ornientals and pretty enough on top of a desert, aren't really utilitarian.

OK, that's a start. What are your potager favorites - and why?

Happy gardening,
- vladpup

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 1:01 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2006 4:28 pm
Posts: 148
Location: Pt. Orchard, WA
Daylilly blossoms can be stuffed or just added to a sald; the enlarged fleshy roots can be peeled and have a nutty-radish flavor.

There is also an orietal Mum that is edible; can't recall the name offhand.

If you go check the Evergreen seed website; there are many of the Japanese and Oriental greens that would work great as edging plants; some even regrow after cutting.

"Bright Light' Kale; stalks in yellow, orange and reds.

If you would like a small bushy tree; check out Chinese Wolfberry (Gogi) attractive blue flowers; highly nutrishious fruits and the young shoots/leaves may be prepared like green.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:08 pm 
Scarlet Runner Beans are my hands-down favorite for vegetables that double as ornamentals. Yes, they do need something to climb on, but any sort of regular bean tepee will work; it needn't be really heavy duty. While I've only grown the scarlet ones, they also come in a red-&-white bicolor & a salmon. There may be other colors out there as well that I'm just not aware of.

But as far as the original Scarlet Runner Bean goes, the flowers are not only bee & hummingbird magnets, but have a wonderful light "beany" flavor that is not only terrific in salads, but makes a lovely edible plate garnish as well. Flowers are followed by green flat-podded beans (like an Italian Romano bean) that, when picked young, are wonderful!! I slice them into 1" or 2" pieces, boil or steam quickly, & dress simply with butter & some chopped fresh marjoram. Vegetable ambrosia :). I've read that they can also be left to grow larger & used as fresh shell beans, but I like them so much when they're fresh & young that I've never tried them like that.


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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 2:22 am 
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Joined: Thu May 17, 2007 11:36 am
Posts: 13
Location: Denmark
vladpup wrote:
OK, that's a start. What are your potager favorites - and why?


One of my favorites is the leaf beet. It comes in so many colours. Some have one bright color, others are multicolored. They are very decorative the kitchen garden.

When left to bolt, they are even more beautiful. Judge for yourself: Leafbeet running to seed

And .... not to forget. You can eat them!

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 6:37 am 
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Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2006 4:28 pm
Posts: 148
Location: Pt. Orchard, WA
I edged one bed with Moss Parsley, creates a nice border and I eat it while in the garden.

Horseradish; large bold leaves, but if you pinch out the young leaves; those are edible and very pungent.

You mention nasturtium; do you let them set seed? Placed in left over pickle juice they make a great caper.

I always grow lemon cukes. This year I found seed for a white cuke to try; will keep you posted

Hardy kiwi is a climber and one variety has variagated leaves.

Look for the oriental Snake Gourd; edible and impressive shapes

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2007 7:39 am 
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Location: Laytonsville, MD zone 7a
I thought I'd let the people in this thread know that Vladpup died sometime this past winter or early spring.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:41 pm 
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Location: Sunol, CA (9B)
I'd add 'fish' hot peppers. This pepper has a gene which causes all the plants to be variegated. The plants get to about 2' tall and 18" wide, relatively small by pepper plant standards probably because they plants are weak from the variegation. They have a relatively low yield of pinky finger sized, moderately hot, thin walled peppers.

Cereal grains can also look quite nice, though it's a lot of work to manually harvest the stuff in small quantities. Breadseed poppies (or any pap. som. variety) are another beautiful edible.

From what I understand a cottage garden includes lots of ornamental plants as well as edibles, and a straight vegetable garden is not planned to be asthetically pleasing. I use nice looking materials and include decorative edibles so I guess my plot is more of a potager than any other type of garden.

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