• Grace Cobb

Have you ever thought of an ornamental edible garden?

One of the exciting things taking the garden design industry by storm is edible gardens. These are great fun and they give you a good healthy reason to get out into the garden. They can also be very hardy and they can be quite striking to look at.

So ordinary people like you and me are looking at taking the sustainable gardening approach, looking to grow food for their own families and have a garden that is a feast for all of the senses.

About three years ago when I first started designing gardens my aunt took me around some Melbourne gardens designed by leading garden designers. The one that I loved the most was called Jack’s Ornamental Edible Garden, designed by Lisa Ellis. So in this garden, planting was the key. Aesthetically it was more handsome than pretty. There was a strong edible plant theme, as well as plants that could be used for picking and for vases. Let me paint the picture for you.

I walked into the garden with big Magnolias on one side and gardenias on the other side beneath a bedroom window. A gate and archway divided the front from the back, with bamboo thickly planted either side hiding what was beyond. As I went under the arch I honestly felt like Alice in Wonderland as I came out the other side. Citrus trees lined a weaving stepping stone path.

As I walked along, the smell of mint was strong. A very low growing mint used to make Crème de Menthe was planted around the stepping stones and the fragrance wafted up to my nose as my feet brushed by the plants. Under the citrus trees, Peppermint Geraniums grew on one side and Hellebores the other side. The story was told (and this got me in one), that to give your chocolate cake an edge over everyone elses, you could line the base of a cake tin with the peppermint geranium leaf to give a lovely peppermint infusion. Beautiful job I thought, that will mask my chocolate packet cake mix forever and no one will ever know.

Handy! I love this garden.

Looking ahead was a sunken north facing terrace and a paved path with shaped Buxus Balls and lettuce plants that had gone to seed on either side. The Buxus Balls and lettuce plants was such a surprise and such a clever planting combination and much more up market than my three rowed vege patch at home. Oh, the ideas you can come up with using edible plants.

There were citrus trees everywhere in the garden all in fruit, so the yellow from the lemon trees, orange from the orange trees, mandarins and cumquat trees popped out at you with their colour in this green green garden.

Under yet more citrus, was a plant called False Cardamom. This is a very long, broad leafed, hardy plant. You can use the leaves from this plant to infuse fish. Another large garden bed had prostrate rosemary growing down low with valerian poking its head out maybe 30cm high with beautiful white flowers on top swaying in the wind. A bronze pear took pride of place in the middle of this garden bed and white crepe myrtles dangled their delicate branches overhead. At the far end of the garden, raised beds were planted with typical veggies such as spinach, zucchinis and radishes. This designer used bay trees to segregate one area from another and then had English spinach and strawberries growing beneath as well as the themed buxus balls. I would have loved to pick at least one of those strawberries but just too many people about that day. Wished I was five years old and could have got away with it! ​​

Two jacaranda trees were also grown in the citrus beds to provide scale to the house in the future without blocking too much light from the citrus below. Now I haven’t even touched on the plant list used in this garden but everywhere you looked there were herbs or fruit trees or veggies and as we walked around, we were given a list of recipes that could be made from the food in this garden. This garden totally blew me away. Not only was it delicious, it looked beautiful and you could interact with it. It really was a feast for the senses. It was a playful garden, had a heavenly fragrance blowing in the wind and it looked beautiful. Haven’t veggies gardens come a long way? ​​

Herbs, veggies and fruit trees are very hardy and there is an enormous choice out there whatever your climate or soil type. So you can have the best of both worlds. Beauty and food at the same time. It’s not surprising that we are looking at the likes of edible garden and food forests.

If you can’t have your own ornamental edible garden there are Community Gardens popping up all over the country. For example the Goondiwindi and District Community Garden. Their motto is to plant together, grow together, thrive together. They are on a mission to plant gardens together to grow friendships, to grow the community and to feed the mind, body and soul. How good is that?

A garden makes no judgement. It is a place that anyone, young or old can feel healthy and happy. Having a garden is food for the soul. Growing things can de stress your life and unclutter your mind. By putting your hands in the soil you are making the world a better place and I know for me that also helps make me a better person too. Try making the area you have as the vegetable garden, ornamental as well as edible. The ideas are endless.

Can you help me design an ornamental edible garden?

Yes I can.

Call me on 0427 445 872​​