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updated: 6/16/2013 3:55 PM

Art in the garden: Mix edible and ornamental plants in the garden

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  • Lettuce is a beautiful companion to pansies in spring and fall

      Lettuce is a beautiful companion to pansies in spring and fall
    Courtesy of planter's palette

 
By Diana Stoll
The Planterís Palette

If you don't have space in the yard for a vegetable garden, you can still enjoy the great taste of fresh picked, homegrown veggies. All you need is some open spots in your perennial borders. Not only is it a space saver, it adds a unique decorative look to the garden. The leaf textures and fruits of many vegetables blend beautifully with annuals and perennials.

Growing vegetables on a trellis is a good way to start. Vertical growing takes very little space and allows more sun to caress vines -- a sure way to ensure a bountiful harvest.

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Pickling and slicing cucumbers are ideal candidates for the back of a border. Their large bold foliage and perky yellow flowers add bright color and robust texture. Cucumbers need a sunny spot where they are protected from harsh winds and their roots can be kept warm and moist -- especially as the fruit is forming.

Small squashes are another option for growing vertically. Their large flowers and coarse, gnarly vines are striking when hanging from a trellis. The flowers are a culinary delicacy -- pick them just as the fruit begins to develop.

Several varieties are available. Try green or golden zucchini or an acorn squash. These squash develop quickly and are best harvested when fruits are young. Applying a layer of mulch will benefit the moisture-loving, shallow roots. Although not edible, small gourds and mini pumpkins are excellent vines for producing a quick cover over an arbor. Plant these ornamentals in early summer, enjoy the vines all summer long, and harvest the gourds and pumpkins for fall decorating.

Pole beans have delightful, heart-shaped leaves and pods of purple, yellow or white. Plant seeds every week in spring after the danger of frost has passed, and you'll have a continuous supply of beans all summer long. Plant pole beans on a tall obelisk near perennials with blooms that will echo the color of the pods.

The perennial garden is the perfect spot for salad crops beginning in early spring. Lettuce is easy to grow and is quite beautiful mixed with spring blooming annuals and perennials. The dark green, crinkled leaves of spinach are packed with vitamins and add bold texture to the border.

Leeks add architectural appeal with their unique, deep blue-green leaves reaching nearly two feet tall. Harvest leeks throughout the summer after the tops have reached six inches.

Swiss chard has gained popularity as a plant for container gardens and is just as stunning in the garden. Their eye-catching, fleshy midrib colors of red, bright pink, yellow and white blend beautifully with pansies in spring and fall.

Other easy-to-grow vegetables worthy of a spot with your flowers include peppers and eggplant. Peppers bear fruits in shades of red, yellow, orange and purple. Eggplant boasts gorgeous shiny, purple fruits.

Don't let the lack of a traditional vegetable garden stop you from growing your own vegetables. Plant them among your annuals and perennials and you'll have a pretty and bountiful flower garden.

• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and the garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040 or visit planterspalette.com.

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