Growing for the kitchen, or even more impressively, for the dining table, has become fashionable.
Weekends spent working the soil of a vegetable plot or a city allotment are no longer a questionable leisure activity, a dirty little secret best not mentioned in conversations with weekday professional colleagues. Urban allotments in particular have moved on from the tradition-bound era of the flat cap. Among a younger generation of Edinburgh residents, allotments have become aspirational. A diverse
range of people, plants, styles and structures can all be found on today’s city allotments.
Flat caps may be ‘old hat’, but today’s vegetable growers still express fashion trends in their gardens. Unusual fruit and vegetable cultivars are becoming popular in domestic gardens and on allotment plots. Our changing climate is encouraging adventurous planting, and seed suppliers are introducing new vegetable varieties each year. Our warmer, wetter growing conditions are presenting new challenges and inviting innovative planting opportunities. Newly fashionable crops are being grown alongside the ordinary but once-exotic potato.
The Brussels sprouts which arrived in the British Isles long before the Eurostar are now competing for the attention of well-travelled gardeners who appreciate varieties of Chinese cabbage, French beans, Japanese mizuna, American sweet corn and Tuscan kale.
Plant form, foliage texture and colour are the most useful garden design qualities of edible plants. ‘Greens’ now include many other hues, as expressed in their foliage, so once-humble vegetables now exhibit decorative qualities. The health-giving qualities of colourful fruit and vegetables are well known, but it should be appreciated that the visual appearance of edible plants makes them worthy of a place in most gardens.
Whereas conventional ornamental planting may reach a visual climax at flowering time, many plants grown for their flavour are harvested before any flowers are produced. Thus herbs and vegetables offer a valuable foliage contribution to planting schemes, whether intermingled amongst inedible decorative plants, or used boldly, even ‘architecturally’, as visual elements deserving attention in their own right.
Thank-you to all the growers at Midmar allotments, whose August open day provided a feast of photo-opportunities and some fresh, tasty edibles.
© Douglas Dalgleish, Garden Design 2008