The Hard Working Potager

Many of us would agree that a good old-fashioned, deep herbaceous border, spilling with roses in the month of June, is the very best of English gardens. I’ve been moved by beauty in many gardens this spring where wonderful early rainfall followed by bright, sunny days has yielded the most incredible blossom in all our gardens. Many forecast that this year’s blooms would be in abundance following the incredible drought last summer and then a very early nip of deep frost which has encouraged our flowering plants to go into survival mode.

As a horticulturalist, I see these disrupted weather patterns as a warning that we need to live with as light a footprint as possible. An obvious evolution is to grow more veg, fruit and flowers at home, hence my love of potagers.

The word potager stems from the French word ‘potagère’ – a vegetable garden in short! At Nicholsons, we have been designing potagers for over 20 years – as often defined by beauty as well as functionality. Given that we can eat most flowers, I take a liberty and mix all my flowers, vegetables and herbs together to form a beautiful and functional garden. My roses jostle with my rhubarb and my rhubarb in turn offers vital shade to my emerging potato crop. I rarely suffer pests and diseases as the mixed cropping confuses the wee beasties!

I have an abundance of lady birds and lace wings and this year, zillions of ants who are all happily munching on any brave green fly that dare to visit.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than an early morning stroll through the potager, deadheading as I go and munching on the occasional strawberry. Having contact with producing our own food is an immense privilege and wonderfully reassuring in this fast world.

As a professional vegetable technologist, I used to assume that all plants were inedible unless specifically grown for food. I now rather assume that most plants are edible and although I cautiously do Google before any attempt at poisoning my family, I find myself liberally adding rose and dahlia petals to my salads, sedum leaves topped with crème fraîche and smoked salmon as a delicious canape, bay leaves in tea and most useful of all, boiling cloves and rosemary as an antiviral!

I’ve included some images below of my rather wild plot where nature largely prevails! I’m not time rich and it is OK to have weeds as unexpected friends popping up. Many of these weeds will offer shelter to some more tender seedlings trying to establish in these Sahara-like summer days.

So, I feel it’s time for us to reconsider our gardens, develop a potager area and enjoy nature’s bounty.