Flowers and Food

In the last post I discussed some reasons why we might want to combine flowers and vegetables. Of course, vegetables mostly flower too so allowing some to ‘bolt’ aka flower can be a nice way of adding interest for you and the rest of nature. Not only that but you may end up with self seeding lettuce or mustard. That and you can save seed from those plants.

Herbs, as well, have very useful flowers for increasing ecological diversity. Many are members of the mint family – rosemary, catmint, thyme, oregano, lemon balm, basil, sage, lavender, hyssop(s) – and extremely attractive to pollinators. The carrot family is also well represented with fennel, dill, parsley, caraway, mitsuba, lovage and coriander and a nectar source for beneficials. Lest we not forget the alliums – bunching onion, chives, garlic chives and various others are another hit with pollinators.

Outside of flowering vegetables and herbs, many annuals are a great addition to either the vegetable garden or to the borders whether they be perennial borders or just the edge of veggie patch. The lists below are really overlapping Venn diagrams but I’ve tried to group some of the flowers we have available into useful lists. There are so many combinations that are possible with flowers, vegetables and herbs.

A rule of thumb is to think about what each plant needs and make sure that there is minimal competition between them by ensuring adequate spacing, nutrients, sun and so forth. I’d love to hear your combinations.

This design that I put in a number of years ago. Sweet potato edging, various perennial edibles and herbs. Even some red cabbage looking lovely with Gaillardia.

Pollinator attractors

  • Alyssum: Great edger. Try around a bed of greens
  • Borage (edible flowers): A traditional companion for various vegetables like tomatoes
  • Phacelia: Often planted as a cover crop and to attract pollinators
  • Salvia: Members of the mint family are usually abuzz with activity.
  • Veronica: Spike flowers in blues. Gorgeous with bright flowers

Hummingbird and Butterflies

  • Agastache, Sunset Hyssop: Tubular flowers and silvery flowers would flank French sorrel well or combine with herbs like Oregano.
  • Canna lily: Bold foliage, try with sulfur cosmos or coreopsis
  • Celosia: Colourful hot coloured flowers edge other hot coloured plants or interplant with sulfur Coreopsis.
  • Cleome: Interesting foliage on this tall plant. It could emerge airily above shorter flowers. An old farm I visited grew it with pumpkins whether on purpose or not I can’t say.
  • Hisbiscus: A highlight in the garden, big and bold. Combines well with a number of perennials
  • Mallow, Zebrina: A mid-tall purple flower. I can see this one with lupins in a perennial bed or Eggplants
  • Milkweed, orange: A non spreading version of this butterfly favourite. Try with Rudbekia.
  • Verbena: Sculptural. Mine grew beautifully among blue alkanet alliums and daisy

Great Foliage

  • Amaranth (edible and other uses): Many varieties are grown in the vegetable patch. Hopi red dye has lovely dark foliage. Combine with okra and/or zinnias. This is often a tall plant so keep it to the centre of the bed.
  • Canna lily: Another combo could be hot peppers.
  • Cornflower: Feathery foliage, self seeding. These look adorable with various types of poppy. Or let them dance around the sunflowers
  • Dahlia: Lovely cut flower. For a veggie combo try dahlia flanked with Swiss chard or dwarf curly kale and edged with carrots. Figaro is a dwarf variety
  • Godetia: Cut flower
  • Nigella: Feathery foliage. These always make me think of meadows.

Great Flowers

  • Fancy Pants Daisy: Cut flower
  • Coreopsis, sulfur: Bright colours. Try it with Sage, Rosemary or Agastache in the herb garden.
  • Rudbekia: Lovely summer colour, fantastic perennial. Try with Sedum. Both bee attractors. Or if you want to put it in the herb garden, it will hold its own next to taller plants like Lovage.
  • Delphinium: Classic in blues, cut flower. Gorgeous with Salvia
  • Gaillardia: Fantastic and bright flower. Bumbles love them. Looks amazing around cabbage or kale.
  • Pansy: Early bloom. Nice with Primulas, Chives and lettuce.
  • Petunia: Common container flower. Though commonly interplanted with ornamental sweet potato vine, you could plant with run of the mill edible sweet potatoes too!
  • Primula: Early bloom. One of my favourites. Combine with violets, English daisy or early spring greens
  • Sweet pea: For cut flowers. Fixes nitrogen. Try in a cooler spot in the garden.
  • Statice: Cut flower that dries well. I can see it grown next to other cut flowers like Nigella for seed pods.
  • Violets: Early bloom. Naturalize well. Edible flowers. Combine with spring bulbs.
  • Lupins: Very pretty flowers that fix nitrogen and have nice foliage. Looks good with daisies
  • Dianthus, loveliness: Beautiful edging flower. I can imagine it interplanted in the herb garden with alliums. In my old demo garden, it grew with nodding sage, violas and mallows.
I’ve always enjoyed interplanting flowers with various vegetables. This is from a sun trap garden that evolved over the years from mostly annual flowers and vegetables to mostly perennial flowers and vegetables. In this photo, it had just undergone another planting transformation with perennial edibles like seakale in the mulched bed. Coreopsis flanks a stone outcropping in the middle.
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