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More Than Just an Edible Garden: Mixing Ornamental Flowers and Edible Plants

Edible Gardens Do Not Have to Be 'One Size Fits All'

Edible gardens have gained a lot of popularity recently, and for good reason.  They give us a chance to eat food that not only tastes better because of it's freshness, but also because there is something about eating a meal that you not only prepared, but grew!  Of course there are the benefits of being around nature, of getting our hands dirty, and really being  in our environment.  It's good for the soul.  

That said, I've been hearing a complaint about edible gardens recently.  (Gasp! How can that be?)  Namely, that while growing our own fruits and vegetables is a great experience, and that many of the plants are rather ornamental and pretty, the "edible garden" has a tendency to look rather regimented.  Rows of lettuce.  Rows of tomatoes.  Planters of herbs in a line.

Edible Garden by WoodleyWonderworks

For many, this is a wonderful look.  There can be something satisfying about pulling up a lawn and planting something useful for your family instead.  But like everything, one way of doing something doesn't work for everyone.  Some of us would prefer to have a more traditional looking landscape, while still having the benefit of growing our own fruits, vegetables, and herbs.  Luckily, this idea of mixing ornamental and edible plants has been gaining some traction.  Even HGTV and Sunset Magazine have created content about mixed gardens.

Creating a Mixed Ornamental and Edible Garden Yourself

While there are professional landscaping firms that can help you create a design that is both a beautiful and functional mixed ornamental and edible garden, sometimes we just want to get into the dirt ourselves.  If so, one of the key elements to creating a mixed garden that will work is choosing edible and ornamental plants that grow well together - or even better, have a symbiotic relationship where one helps the other.  

A sampling of beautiful flowers that have a symbiotic relationship with edible plants

In two of our previous blogs -- Impermanent Garden (part 3) and Impermanent Garden (part 4) -- we talked about some fruits, vegetables, and herbs that grow well in containers (But of course will largely grow well traditionally planted as well).  So we decided to share some ornamental options that will work well with some of those edible plants.  Above, you can see the the ornamental options are by no means dull or plain.  Color can abound in your mixed garden.  Below, we have created a little cheat sheet of edibles and some of their ornamental friends.  For some, it is simply that they grow well together and like the same conditions.  For others, you can see how the ornamental plant acts as a protector to your edible plant.  How cool!

Edible plants and their ornamental allies

Edible plants and their ornamental allies

Of course this is just a small example of edible and ornamental plant allies.  We would love to hear if you have any other combinations that have worked well for you - and we would especially love to see any pictures of your mixed garden!

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