With our shallow soil and our short growing season, gardeners at the cottage have always loved to use containers for big impact planting. Window boxes, planters on the deck, hanging baskets on a deep porch – is there anything more ‘Classic Muskoka’?
And while there’s always a place for ornamental plants, an increasing number of our clients are asking us to include some edibles in the planters.
In some cases, the switch from an ornamental to an edible is so simple that you might not even notice it. Blue fescue, for example, is a popular ornamental that looks great in a planter; chives have a similar shape, but have the advantage that you can just snip some off and sprinkle them in a salad or an omelette.
Nasturtium is another fantastic plant that’s both edible and ornamental. In fact, many people grown them purely for the blooms, not realizing that they’re also edible. Snip a few flowers and toss them in a salad – they look amazing and their slight peppery tang is delicious. The leaves are also edible, and so are the seed pods. You can even pickle the pods in vinegar for a condiment that’s very similar to capers.
Tomatoes look great in a container, whether trained up an obelisk on the corner of a deck, or trailing from a hanging basket. The bright red fruit is so pretty that it’s easy to imagine them being grown as purely ornamentals, even if they weren’t edible.
There is an abundance of edible greens that also look lovely, including leaf lettuces in every shade from pale green to deep purple. Chard – red or green – and parsley are tremendous additions to the container.
Ornamental kale looks great, but why not replace it with some edible varieties? You really can have your kale and eat it too.
Many leafy herbs look good, although not all are ideal for the cottage container garden. Oregano and thyme are great choices, but basil and cilantro need very frequent watering if they’re not to become leggy – unless you’re up at the cottage all summer, you may want to give these a miss.
You can also mix edibles and ornamentals in the container. A deep pot near the kitchen is a great spot to grow carrots, beets or radishes. Their foliage will blend in nicely with ornamentals like lobelia or petunia, allowing you to enjoy what’s growing above the soil and below it.
As with any edible gardens, of course, you want to ensure nobody uses any chemical pest control around plants that you’ll be eating. We’ve always practiced organic gardening methods, and will continue to do so, treating your ornamentals and edibles in a way that’s good for them, for you, and for the planet.