News flash. Vegetables are in vogue. Not only at fancy gardens like Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer, but in our very own yards. The best way to capture the spirit of garden design, while also providing lots of tasty food using organic practices, – the potager. Pot-a-what?
Originating in France, potagers are small decorative vegetable gardens embodying the English cottage garden feel. Garden beds are intensively planted in an ornamental fashion. They not only contain vegetables, but also abundant herbs and flowers. The French understood that vegetables could be grown in a fashionable manner, offering beauty as well as bounty.
Potagers have a nostalgic air, reminiscent of days when people had leisure to grow, harvest, and prepare fresh seasonal dishes, cut flowers for the table, and herbs for both medicinal purposes and food preparation. Potagers are a joy to work in because they marry utilitarian principles with artistic presentation, intermingling small-scale agriculture with garden design, often employing sustainable, organic gardening practices.
Intense intercropping of companion plants, and adhering to a regular crop rotation schedule aligns with today’s sustainable gardening, and slow food initiatives. Flowers provide nectar and shelter for beneficial insects thereby eliminating the need for insecticides, while planting intensively leaves little room for weeds to flourish reducing the need for herbicides. Furthermore, compost piles, often included in potagers, offer organic nutrients, as opposed to synthetic fertilizers, to replenish the soil.
Perhaps potagers were the trailblazers of today’s organic gardening movement? Either way, its great to witness their return to high fashion. Bon jardinage!
Vegetable selections for color in the potager:
Bordeaux Spinach (Green with red tinge and red stems)
Space Spinach (Dark green)
Speckled Amish Lettuce (Green with burgundy speckles)
Rouge d’Hiver Lettuce (Burgundy)
Les Oreilles du Diable Lettuce (Muted green with hints of burgundy)
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce (Bright green)
Red Sails Lettuce (Red)
Ruby Red Rhubarb Chard (Red stems and leaves)
Bright Lights Swiss Chard (Red, orange, hot pink, and yellow stems)
Red Giant Mustard (Deep burgundy)
Nero di Tuscana or Lacinato Kale (Blue)