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How to Create a Beautiful Garden with Edible Plants

Beautiful Garden with Edible Plants

Hard-working herbs and vegetables are the focus of Anna Greenland's tiny urban edible garden in Oxford. From the beginning, she pointed out the edible plants she loved and the garden was an extension of her kitchen. "It's like having a little spice cabinet," he explains. A staunch advocate of Charles Dowding's no-dig method, Anna filled raised beds with well-rotted manure and built in soil from the old lawn below. Wooden planks and an old bathtub helped maximize the growing space and an unwanted door was repurposed to create a cold frame to bring in the seedlings.

More on edible plants here

Anna has a lot of experience in growing edible foods. He was head vegetable gardener at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford, and the kitchen garden at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire was his handiwork. Now he is a consultant to both. His involvement in taste tests at Le Manoir gave him a clear idea of which varieties offer the most in terms of flavor and productivity. Time and availability are key in deciding what to grow in her garden. She avoids vegetables that lend themselves to continuous seeding, such as beetroot, and big-headed single-crop varieties, such as cauliflower, because "it's not practical to sow all summer." Asparagus also comes out because "you enjoy it for a couple of weeks a year, but you need a large area to produce a good amount".

Edible Garden Plants: Best to Grow

1. Aloysia citrodora (Lemon Verbena)

An all-star herb with a lemony, sherberty flavor, steeped in tea in hot water, infused with oil, served with fish or used as a refreshing flavor to sorbet. It has a divine fragrance that instantly lifts your mood with just a few sniffs. 2.5 m. AGM. RHS H3, USDA 8a-10b.

2. Ligusticum Scoticum (Scots Lovage)

A low growing plant with vibrant, red stems and beautiful leaves. Excellent as an attractive groundcover and also works well in pots. It gives a punchy flavor like celery or parsley. Make an herb butter with finely chopped leaves – delicious with fresh radishes. It pairs well with eggs. You can steam the stalks and use the seeds in biscuits or bread. Very easy to grow. 90 cm

3. Perilla frutescens var. purpurascens (purple-leaved beef plant or purple shiso)

There is an air of intrigue about this plant with its striking late-season, dark-purple/red leaves and pretty little purple flowers. Perfect if you want to enhance a small space, but include beautiful, structural plants. The flavor is a combination of cinnamon and basil, a musky, bitter-sweet herb great in Asian cuisine. Use the young leaves in salads, the older leaves in stir-fries or cook in tempura batter. The leaves produce a vibrant red dye that is great for adding to pickling liquid. Germinating it is tricky, but worth the effort. If you can't make it, Jekka McVicar sells healthy plants from her nursery (see our list of suppliers). 1.2 m.

4. Ocimum basilicum 'Cinnamon' (Cinnamon Basil)

I love all things basil. Apart from cinnamon, there are many wonderful flavors like lime, lemon, Thai and more. 'Cinnamon' produces beautiful purple flowers. I use the leaves in summer spring rolls and make cinnamon basil tea with a squeeze of lime. 45 cm

5. Solanum lycopersicum 'Stupis' (Tomato)

This tomato produces delicious fruit outdoors in the British summer, which is brilliant if you don't have space for a greenhouse. It's so delicious - the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. It is an old cultivar from Czechia and is heavily cultivated from early summer. If you're a lazy gardener, this is great because you don't have to pinch off all the side shoots or stake it if you don't want to - you can just let it wander. 2 m.

6. Pelargonium 'Attar of Roses' (Scented Geranium)

Great for infusing a delicate rose flavor into cream for panna cottas or ice creams. Also drizzled on desserts makes a lovely syrup. The flowers are edible and beautiful in salads or dessert plates will be Dig it up and bring it indoors because the winters aren't hard. Works well in a pot for a small space. 60 cm AGM. RHS H1C.

7. Cucurbita moschata ‘Tromboncino’ (squash)

A great plant for a small space, you can grow it over a teepee or fence. Squashes are the shape of a trombone and can be large, but at this size they are best used for decoration. Much softer than courgettes – I carve them up like mini courgettes all summer long for their mild, nutty flavor. 1.2 m.

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