By Martina Mercer

Many of us love the idea of having a huge vegetable patch that we can spend hours in producing food for the family, however time can be a common constraint, as well as space, making it seem like a daunting prospect to grow your own, and although your pansies and primroses always bloom beautifully, only violas can be added to a salad.

Expand your Mind

There are ways to incorporate vegetables into any flower border. Nowadays people are finally cottoning onto the fact that veg is beautiful, and some perennial veg will not only look fantastic in between the hydrangea and the rhododendron, but their unique leaves, and wonderful foliage will add mystery, intrigue and a touch of the exotic to a cottage garden.

Broaden your Horizons

As this is still not a common practice, friends will be in awe by the foliage you have managed to procure, and until told will have absolutely no idea that this will actually produce food for the table too.

A firm favourite of mine for this is the common globe artichoke, excellent at the back of a flower border it’s huge spearmint leaves add a fabulous dramatic touch to any garden, coupled with the fruiting, these really are a vegetable of choice. If you love your artichokes, pick them when ripe, however if you have too many leave them to flower and you will notice an unsurpassed fluffy purple head that stands out against any background.

Vegetable Climbers will give a Dramatic Display

Although sweet peas are often used as climbers around a door frame or on a particular wall of a house, it is worth considering using runners or peas for the same purpose. Not only will they flower beautifully in a variety of different colours from a ruby red to a bright crisp white they will also give a wonderful twist when laden with bounty ready to pick as soon as you exit the door!

Broad beans can be grown anywhere! In fact let the children plant them willy nilly and see where they pop up. Such an easy plant to grow you will never be disappointed.

Take Advantage of the Funky Foliage

Salsify is becoming popular in England now; nicknamed the oyster of the vegetable world, when planted in a flower border it will resemble cordeline – a tough sharp grass. As soon as it is picked store it in ice cold water will lemon juice just as you would a bramley apple that’s been halved, as they can brown very easily.

Beetroot will sit pretty at the front of any flower border and creating a line of red and yellow beetroot will add interesting foliage to set off the larger shrubs at the back, which brings me to…

Swiss chard – particularly the Bright Lights Variety, no flower or shrub gives us such a rainbow of colour, and with bright yellow stems mixed with deep scarlet, these will catch the eye of any passerby. Pick young leaves for salads, leave some for decoration and pick mature ones for stews and as a vegetable accompaniment. Blanching the leaves separately from the stalks will ensure perfect cooking throughout. Enjoy!

Martina Mercer originally wrote this post for Edible Landscaping