Peter Cun­dall:

An old-fash­ioned blended gar­den which in­cludes or­na­men­tal plants with veg­eta­bles, fruit trees and herbs is still a win­ning com­bi­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to gar­den guru PETER CUN­DALL

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - with Peter Cun­dall

A blended gar­den is the best of both worlds

There’s noth­ing strange or alien about grow­ing veg­eta­bles, fruit trees and herbs as part of an or­na­men­tal gar­den. Af­ter all, most English cot­tage gar­dens were orig­i­nally com­posed of veg­eta­bles and herbs, al­most al­ways main­tained by women.

There was usu­ally a straight, di­vid­ing path to the front door. One side grew pota­toes while the other side grew cab­bages, turnips, car­rots, parsnips, let­tuces, peas and beans. Ev­ery year, sides were swapped as a crude form of crop ro­ta­tion.

It was only later when many cot­tages were rented by artists and writ­ers that seeds of an­nu­als, peren­ni­als and other eas­ily-grown flow­er­ing plants were ca­su­ally scat­tered around to cre­ate the colour­ful mix of sum­mer-grown plants we now call cot­tage gar­dens.

How­ever, com­bin­ing edi­bles with or­na­men­tals is not only highly at­trac­tive, it is also a valu­able source of food. What could be more de­light­ful than go­ing into the flower gar­den to gather in­gre­di­ents for a tasty meal?

When in full fruit kumquat trees look as if cov­ered with small, golden Christ­mas lights

Many ed­i­ble plants and fruit trees are at­trac­tive and eas­ily blend with or­na­men­tals. For ex­am­ple, pars­ley can be grown as a valu­able, rich-green edg­ing plant. It looks at home along path edges along­side vi­o­las and dianthus. And the more it is picked, the more lux­u­ri­antly it seems to grow.

Chives are an­other herb which are very much at home in a rose gar­den. Some years ago I dis­cov­ered a clump of a par­tic­u­larly fine and ten­der-leaved form, still sur­viv­ing in the rem­nants of an old gar­den where a cot­tage once stood.

I di­vided the clump into tiny di­vi­sions which were then pushed into the soil around and be­tween our roses. Each Novem­ber they pro­duce lovely dis­plays of rosy-pink flow­ers while the del­i­cate onion aroma pro­vides a use­ful de­ter­rent against aphids.

Let­tuces grow con­tent­edly among an­nu­als and shrubs even if slightly shaded. The small, colour­ful Red Oak­leaf, but­ter­heads or colour­ful mignonette va­ri­eties

look great any­where and have the ad­van­tage of be­ing less likely to be at­tacked by birds be­cause they are partly con­cealed.

The bril­liantly-coloured forms of sil­ver­beet known as Rain­bow Chard are won­der­fully or­na­men­tal. Stems are rubyred, yel­low, cream, pink and even cerise. The large leaves of Ruby Chard have an un­usu­ally-beau­ti­ful, al­most metal­lic ap­pear­ance and in win­ter turn deep bur­gundy. Many peo­ple con­sider them to be sweeter than com­mon forms of sil­ver­beet.

Leeks have a glau­cus-blue ap­pear­ance and like chives may be planted in small clus­ters of three or five be­tween roses bushes, or as edg­ing plants. They too pro­vide both win­ter colour and tasty eat­ing.

Many fruit trees look great as part of an or­na­men­tal gar­den.

Ap­ple trees grafted on to dwarf­ing stock take up lit­tle space and are clearly happy grow­ing in lawns or even in flower borders. Va­ri­eties such as Spar­tan (pale pink flow­ers in spring fol­lowed by out­stand­ing, deep, pur­ple-skinned fruit), or Golden De­li­cious with huge yields soft­yel­low ap­ples make su­perb, ed­i­ble fea­tures in any gar­den.

The pink and snowy-white quince blos­soms are ex­cep­tion­ally beau­ti­ful and trees can be kept small by sum­mer prun­ing. In au­tumn the same trees are fes­tooned with dan­gling, golden fruit.

Cit­rus trees are al­ways highly or­na­men­tal. The Meyer le­mon is noth­ing more than a large bush, but in late win­ter and spring they are dot­ted with bright yel­low, ex­tra-juicy lemons.

Other le­mon trees such as Lis­bon and Eureka grow twice as large, have more ‘lemony’ lemons than Meyer and crop con­sis­tently right through the year.

All cit­rus trees are best grown sep­a­rately from other plants so make out­stand­ing lawn spec­i­mens. How­ever they need ex­tra wa­ter in sum­mer and the grass around them should either be heav­ily mulched or the grass mown short to avoid com­pe­ti­tion.

Kumquat trees even­tu­ally grow to about 2m with a sin­gle trunk and wide, dome-shaped canopies. When in full fruit they look as if cov­ered with small, golden Christ­mas lights.

I’ve been ex­per­i­ment­ing with this kind of mixed, blended gar­den for many years. The mix­ture not only looks fan­tas­tic – but tastes de­li­cious too.

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