Three Edible/Ornamental Combinations That Look & Taste Great

by Fern on March 29, 2010

in Flowers Galore,Fruits & Vegetables

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A popular idea at the moment is using edible plants as if they were ornamentals. For example, people who want to make a hedge might choose blueberry bushes instead of boxwood. I think this idea translates really well in the land of container gardening. It popped up several times while I was at the San Francisco Garden Show. For example, at the Monrovia booth, one of their orange-sweater-clad guys seemed to really enjoy pairing edibles with an ornamental plant that brought out the beauty in the edible plant. With that in mind, I thought I’d share three ideas for bringing out the best in fruits and vegetables.

Eggplant + Coleus

That Monrovia guy was really stoked about underplanting eggplants with coleus. When I suggested a variety of coleus called ‘Fishnet Stockings’ his face really lit up. I have to agree that the combo is really stunning. I think other coleus with deep purple accents could work too, like ‘Witch Doctor.’ What do you think?

Tomato + Calendula + Nasturtiums

I love the idea of a gradated color scheme of red, orange, and yellow. If I was potting up this combination, I would plant the tomato in the center of a square pot. In each corner, I’d plant a nasturtium so that they could spill over the sides. Then, in between each nasturtium I’d place a calendula plant. Although the nasturtium and calendula are normally planted as ornamentals, they are edible too.

‘Bright Lights’ Chard + Sweet Alyssum

‘Bright Lights’ is one of the most visually appealing varieties of Chard. The plants have a variety of different colored stems and veins, ranging from red, pink, cream, and gold. I think these tasty and beautiful plants would be even prettier surrounded by equally colorful sweet alyssum. Pick up packets of purple, white, and yellow alyssum seeds. Pour out equal amounts of each color and mix them together before sowing them evenly all over the surface of pot. Then sow the chard seeds. In a few weeks, you’ll have one colorful pot of nutritious, delicious plants!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Matti March 29, 2010 at 7:56 am

Great observation. I remember another one using actual veggies, instead of flowers, to set up a flower arrangement…a cornucopia style arrangement if you will.
On Chards…not only great looking, but planting leafy salad type plants gets you great bang for your buck… Matti


Fern March 29, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Matti–I agree, salad greens are probably the best return on your money as far as edibles go. Supermarkets jack up the prices, but they are easy and quick to grow at home.

Mary C. March 29, 2010 at 9:01 am

How funny I was just talking to my BF yesterday about edible landscaping! Great combo ideas Fern!


Fern March 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Mary–You must have your finger on the pulse of the gardening world then, because it is a HOT topic. :-)

Kimberly March 29, 2010 at 9:45 am

Clever. I end up just planting marigolds with all my veggies. I do grow both eggplants and coleus but it hadn’t occurred to me to combine them.


Fern March 29, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Kimberly–Did you meet the orange sweater Monrovia dudes? One of them was VERY smitten with that combo. I figure if the guys at Monrovia like a combo, it must be good.

Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro March 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I love, love, love putting edibles and non-edibles together. We actually have coleus under our meyer lemon tree.

In our backyard, we’ve always put herbs into our flower gardens. A few weeks ago, we planted a ranunculus garden, but added in lettuce, eggplant, chard, celery, broccoli… and lots and lots of herbs (too many to mention). I can’t figure out how to post a pic of that garden in this comment, so link to photos can be seen here: http://rusticgardenbistro.com/garden/ – Basically, our m.o. is – 1) fill up the three veggie boxes, then 2) put everything else in the flower garden. :-) [K]


Fern March 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Sounds like an awesome MO to me Kim! What variety of nasturtium is that rusty-colored one? It’s beautiful!

Deborah March 29, 2010 at 9:12 pm

Do you have to wait until the eggplant is tall enough to shade the coleus? This is blowing my mind, because I think of these as opposite ends of the sunlight spectrum. I could read about this pretties-with-edibles stuff everyday for a month! Will be adding Kim to the follow list.


meryemilymay March 30, 2010 at 6:12 am

iwill try it i never grew edibles they combine beautifulywith ornamental plants


Fern March 31, 2010 at 12:22 am

Deborah–Many of the modern coleus varieties tolerate full sun, though they prefer part shade. I would plant the coleus so that the eggplant shades them a bit.


Kristi April 1, 2010 at 9:56 am

All of these are great ideas, I think I am going to try your suggestion for the coleus and eggplant. Currently, I am experimenting with purple,white, fuchsia alyssum, dino kale (with has a purplish undertone) and purple burgundy bush beans. My goal is to do more edible/non-edible combinations this summer.


Ivynettle April 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

My lady-boss made a rather pretty planter this week, with forget-me-nots and a pink-flowered strawberry (my cousin and I at once copied this idea when she came by to get something for her balcony).
I imagine the forget-me-nots will have to be replaced with something else in summer, but for now, it looks just gorgeous!


Fern April 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Sounds very pretty Ivynettle! I’m curious…what is a lady-boss? Is it a boss that happens to be a woman?

Kristi–That sounds like a great combo! You should take a pic and submit it to the Flickr group. I bet a lot of people would like to see what that combo looks like.

Laura Balaoro April 3, 2010 at 5:31 am

I love all the combo. I am collecting as much info as I can for a class that I am preparing on Ornamental Edibles. Any help more help I can get will be great.


Fern April 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Laura–What else can I help with? Just today I was thinking that ruby chard and red nasturtiums would look pretty together too.

Laura Balaoro April 4, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Thank you Fern. These are great. I am trying to figure out how to explain having the eggplant ( which requires full sun) next to coleus (shade). Is the eggplant just shading the coleus? is that the idea? Beautiful combination though.


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