Edible flowers have a way of transforming the garden—and any meal—into a work of art. Grow beautiful, edible flowers in this Garnish Garden, a unique garden plan that inspires cooks with a cascade of captivating blossoms.
By Ellen Ecker Ogden
The Complete Kitchen Garden (Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2011) is the definitive garden design and cookbook. Based on the seasonal cycles of the garden, each chapter offers an original themed garden design such as “The Salad Lover’s Garden,” “The Heirloom Maze Garden,” and “The Children’s Garden,” with recipes to match and step-by-step instructions for growing the ultimate kitchen garden. The following diagram and plant list are taken from the chapter “The Garnish Garden.”
Illustrations courtesy Stewart Tabori & Chang
Overall size: 15 feet by 15 feet
Inner bed size: 2 feet by 6 feet
Outer bed size: 15 feet long/with cut out
Path width: 2 feet
Path material: Sod or bark mulch
1. Artichokes: Imperial Star
2. Anise: Hyssop
3. Beans: Hyacinth Bean
5. Calendula: Flashback
6. Carthamus (Safflower): Zanzibar
7. Eucalyptus: Silver Dollar
8. Grass: Jester Ornamental and Silver Tip Wheat
9. Marigolds: Lemon Gem
10. Nasturtiums: Jewel Mix
11. Nigella: Love in a Mist
12. Salvia: Coral Nymph
13. Sunflowers: Italian White
14. Viola: Sorbet Formula Mix
Edible flowers top my list of must-haves in a kitchen garden. Most are easy to start from seed, either directly in the garden or indoors, and transplanted once the danger of frost is past. They can be used as garnish, or their petals can be sprinkled over a salad. They attract honeybees, hummingbirds, and other beneficial insects, and the colors of edible flowers contrast nicely with the green foliage of most vegetable plants. Favorites: Monarda, Calendula, Marigold, Nasturtium, Nigella, Hyacinth Bean, Lavender, Pansy, Sunflower, Hollyhock.
Borage: Also known as a starflower, borage is naturalized throughout the Mediterranean region, and grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet. Its stems and leaves are bristly, yet the brilliant blue blossoms are magnificent: five narrow, triangular petals with a flavor reminiscent of cucumber. Easy to grow, sow seeds directly in the garden or start ahead with plants.
Calendula: The name calendula means the first day of the month, presumably because pot marigolds are in bloom at the start of most months of the year since they bloom quickly—less than 60 days from seed to blossom. The color ranges from bright yellows, reds, and oranges and are remarkably frost hardy. Plant in a sunny location with rich, welldrained soil. Harvest blossoms frequently to keep the plants blooming. Calendula have a spicy flavor and can be added to salads and used as a garnish.
Marigolds: Tagetes tenuifolia is a single blossom marigold that is quite different than the common marigold. These ferny mounds of lemon-scented foliage provide a long blooming season for the kitchen gardener. They are ideal as an edging plant, though they will grow to 12 inches high, so keep them trimmed to maintain a compact plant. Start seeds indoors and transplant into prepared loose soil outdoors after danger of frost is past. Seeds can be direct sown, in a single row or broadcast in a block; allow 6 to 8 inches between rows in order to cultivate. Keep plants watered and harvest sprigs of flowers frequently to encourage growth. Favorites: Lemon Gem, Tangerine, Deep Red.
Nasturtiums: Trumpet-shaped and with a mild spicy flavor, nasturtiums are one of my favorite edible flowers in the garden. They adapt easily to growing in a pot, as a border, or up a trellis. The wide range of colors—from pale yellow to deep scarlet and brilliant orange—makes this one of the most useful garden ornamentals. Leaves and flowers are both edible and can be added to salads or chopped into a seasoned butter for serving over cooked vegetables. Direct sow in the garden. Favorites: Alaska, Peach Melba, Empress of India, Whirlybird.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Complete Kitchen Garden, published by Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2012.
Click here for the main article, The Garnish Garden: Growing Edible Flowers.