Planning Potager Gardens or Borders

As we all get back into the garden with a renewed vigour fuelled by fine weather many of us will be exploring new ideas. Whilst not something completely new, an old fashioned style which is becoming more popular is the potager garden. Essentially these are ornamental vegetable gardens that are usually set up in square or regular designs. Originally a French idea they are gardens of great beauty that are mainly made up of the usual fruit and vegetables but also herbs and edible flowers. The idea of these gardens has caught on as they are an easy way of growing good food but that also looks good and requires little space.

At Aberglasney our Kitchen Garden has evolved into more of a potager style garden over the last few years. This is more down to practical reasons than a conscious decision for it to become one. When discussing this style of garden I’ve often been asked if you could apply the idea to part of a border and indeed this is often the best way to use the potager style. The secret is to plan well from the beginning. We find a combination of permanent and annual plants is best so an herbaceous border makes a great option for ‘potagering’ if there is such word.

As long as you have gaps at some point in the year you can grow flowers, fruit, herbs or vegetables. Fruit trees, shrubs and cane fruit can be integrated into the garden display very easily and many make excellent wall shrubs, hedges or fences. Herbs can also be beautiful garden plants and in sunny spots will make a wonderful herbaceous display. One of the best kept secrets are edible flowers, things like Calandula which are great garden plants with wonderful flowers that are also edible. Last but not least the vegetables, most thrive in good rich soil so they will go well in a herbaceous border which also requires a good soil.

When the above are mixed into a herbaceous or mixed border the display is quite wonderful and of course you get both food and colour from the same patch of ground. The easiest way to do this is to plant annual flowers and vegetables between the herbaceous plants or the shrubs. Salad crops are especially good for this job as they make excellent ground cover. On the other hand Brassica have lovely foliage and plants such as Cabbage can make quite striking foliage plants in a border.

Walls and trellises are great places to grow peas and beans whereas broad beans do well between shrubs where they have support. If you wish to add height to a border a wigwam of peas or beans or even runner beans works well and the lush foliage is an excellent foil for the other plants.

The great thing with this type of gardening is that you generally only need a few plants of each thing so there is no great expense and you don’t end up with masses of one thing or waste. Probably the best advice is to dip your toe in gently at first and see how things do. A few peas or herbs in the border at first and then get more adventurous. The other good practice is just to sow small amounts of things at regular intervals and see how they do. Whatever the scale mixing it up is always good fun but always keep poisonous plants separate.

Tips for the week

  • Start sowing for the summer
  • Mark snowdrops to be thinned
  • Mow the lawn
  • Have a bonfire now its dry enough
  • Prune hybrid tea and floribunda if its mild enough