Over the past few years the popularity of swapping rose bushes for lettuces has really taken off – boosted by celebrity endorsement from the likes of Jamie Oliver and even the Obamas – credit conscious Britons have realised that the beauty of your garden needn't remain outdoors and can equally be brought from the gate to your plate.
Research into attitudes on home produce has shown a third of us are growing our own fruit and veg but with only 22% confining them to a veg patch and a further 43% to our plate, it seems more and more of us are celebrating vegetables not just for their great taste but for their incredible beauty too.
TV presenter and award winning gardener Chris Beardshaw couldn’t agree more, 'Edible plants are every bit as beautiful and intricate as flowering plants and can create a visual feast for the eyes. Look to include plants such as Chard, Nasturtiums, Lollo Rosso, Bull's Blood and flowering peas into your beds and borders to add striking colour and form but that also provide something home grown for the kitchen.'
Chris’ tips on fruit and veg to grow and bring to the table to impress your guests with this summer:
- Tomato Hanging Plants – For a new take on the traditional hanging basket grow tumbling tomato plants in hanging baskets. Tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, the fruit a can be red yellow, orange, purple, and green. If you have more space try growing some of the heritage varieties as these fantastic shapes, sizes and colours will become a real talking point
- Strawberry Plants – if space is a premium and for original table decorations try planting strawberries in all tea cups and other kitchen containers such as colanders
- Rainbow Chard will add wonderful colour to both your garden as it grows and also to the table. For an unusual centrepiece pick one rose and surround by rainbow chard leaves in see through glass.
- Herbs – pick and place a selection of herbs in small vases. They will look great, smell beautiful and also allow guests to season their own salads and even cocktails!
- Runner Beans & Roses – for a beautiful centre piece with a difference place freshly picked runner beans around roses in see through large vase
- Courgettes – not only are these plants fast growing but they have some of the brightest yellow blooms of summer. Try growing them on the top of your compost heap as these hungry fellows will like the extra rich compost and your compost heap will look beautiful all summer long.
- Cabbage (Marabel, Noelle, Marshalls, January King) as its name suggests The January King cabbage is extremely hardy surviving even the severest of frosts. Its conifer-blue colour leaf stands out in low light levels – grown in a group it will bring some well needed structure to the border even in the depths of winter.
- Cordon Apples (grown on dwarf stems)- if you don’t have room for a large apple tree in your garden cordons are the ideal space saving solution and you can grow several different varieties in a restricted space. Be patient as you will not normally be able to obtain top yields until your plant is 4-7 years old.
- Sunflowers – The bright yellow flowers of sunflowers bring joy to anyone who sees them and planted at towards the back of the border they bring an architectural quality. Allow them to set seed and not only will the birds appreciate the tasty treat but they offer an ideal home for small invertebrates which hedgehogs and other small mammals feed on during the autumn and winter months.
- Nasturtiums – these hot colourful flowers will fill in a gap in any border, but grown up an arch or encouraged to cascade over a wall their bright flowers will really pack a punch. Nasturtiums are sun-lovers and they need bright conditions with a soil that doesn’t dry out. Pick the flowers and add them to your summer salad bowl to really brighten up the centre of your table.
- Black Hungarian Pepper – The Black Hungarian Chilli Pepper is one of the most ornamental of all the chilli peppers the green foliage is highlighted by purple veins, producing delicate purple flowers. The fruits are a shiny black ripening to red. Once the weather is warm enough plants can be placed in pots in a warm south facing spot where their fruits can be admired and marvelled at. Feed once a week with a high potash fertiliser such as tomato food.
About Chris Beardshaw
Chris Beardshaw: Award-winning gardener, designer, author and lecturer.
Following his TV debut in 1999 Chris has presented many gardening programmes including the hugely popular Flying Gardener series, Hidden Gardens and Gardeners’ World which he co-presented for three years. Chris recently completed Wild About Your Garden for BBC1 and is a regular panellist on the popular Gardener's Question Time on BBC Radio 4.Last modified: April 28, 2015