Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Sunday, September 05, 2004


It would seem spring is on our doorstep again, after noting many trees beginning to burst their buds. With the longer days and hopefully warmer weather things will really start to take off now. One delight I have in my garden is the rampant nasturtium Tropaeolum majus flowering already for a couple of weeks, I let it romp around the place in the vegetable garden as it softens the look of the area and provides added colour and piquancy to a salad. As with many things, the accidental is often more pleasing than the planned and so it is with my nasturtiums. They often assert themselves in surprising style, sending runners out over the edges and down the steps, in a way I could probably never arrange! If they are at risk of over powering other vegetables, out they come, easy.
I hope to introduce more flowers into my vegetable garden scheme, ones which will perpetuate themselves without my assistance and also contribute to my salads. Of these would have to be included, borage Borago officinalis, violets and violas viola sp., pot marigolds Calendula officinalis, sweet bergamot or bee balm Monarda didyma, to name just a few, all of which are suitable for adding to salads. Sweet bergamot M.didyma is one of the ingredients of Earl Grey tea, but equally at home adding a touch of red to fresh salad. The flowers of herbs too can be used in cooking, not least of all rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis and I have often use the blossoms of lemon in dishes.

There can be some good reasons to include flowers in the diet as they often carry with them extra minerals and vitamins. It is well known that coloured vegetables are good for us, particularly red ones, as with red wine, justification enough for me! Encouraging flowers in the vegetable garden also helps the other more conventional vegetables by providing diversity and diversion for pests which would otherwise find a diet of your greens most pleasant. Companion planting makes good sense if not good looks. My theory is monoculture leaves us prone to
devastation from the vagaries of pests and disease not only our crops but also in our diets. If one crop does not do well one season for what ever reason, there is always something else that has surpassed itself and so there is nearly always something for the table.


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