A Cottage Garden, one that mixes edible plants with perennials, is an old idea that has new appeal these days, especially if you have space limitations. Even if you only try one or two, adding edibles can be a great way to stretch your gardening chops, put herbs close at hand where you’re more likely to use them, and have plants the serve double duty—a concept with a lot of appeal for me.
Chives are hardy, have beautiful flowers(see photo above)and have a clumping habit that is tidy and attractive for much of the summer. And they make great toppings for baked potatoes and to mix into scrambled eggs.
Herbs can be grown in pots near the kitchen door, of course. But they also make nice edgers. I’ve used variegated sage here to edge a stone path. Isn’t it pretty? This herb appreciates the extra heat the stones kick off, and it stays fresh-looking and compact because I pick it frequently. Fresh sage is tender and delicious in pasta dishes. Fried in a bit of olive oil and topped with sea salt, the crisped leaves make a flavorful garnish for salads too.
Hot peppers are ornamental and take up little space for the color punch they provide. In the same color scheme are nasturtiums, which not everyone agrees are as edible, but I love both their bitey taste in salads and their bright colors. Nasturtiums bloom a long time, especially when deadheaded. I have two baskets hanging on the fence that have bloomed all summer long. And finally, for something a bit edgy, you might try kale. These dinosaur kale have a fabulous smoky blue color and a nubby leaf texture. They’d look great planted in clumps as a backdrop for feathery perennials. Or at the feet of the saturated orange of these tall Mexican sunflowers.Swiss Chard, which I didn’t plant this year, is another vegetable that comes in bright colors that look great in the perennial garden. Once you start looking at vegetables and herbs as potential perennial garden partners, you’ll soon find great new “marriages” to try. And as an added bonus, they’ll taste good too!