CO-Horts Blog

Monday, September 9, 2013

Edible ornamentals light up your garden

Posted by Irene Shonle, CSU Extension in Gilpin County

As I was out in my garden yesterday, I was struck by the charm of the edible ornamentals that I had planted around my rhubarb.   In mountain gardens, where cool season crops are the mainstays, the typical vegetable garden is just variations in the key of green.  While this can be quite lovely in it its own right,
Swiss chard and lacinato kale

sometimes it's nice to see other color.  Swiss chard stems are another trick for cool-season color, and of course, some of the lettuces and beets can provide lovely reds.
The bright stems of some swiss chard can be another great splash of color for the mountain gardener.

However, none of these have quite the effect that flowers do. So, in the spring, I planted seeds of borage, sunflower, nasturtiums, violas and calendula in the garden, around the emerging rhubarb.  These are all great edible flowers to jazz up summer dishes and salads, but they are also just plain beautiful in the garden!  Plus, the bumblebees are having a grand time buzzing around the borage.  The hummingbirds are partial to the nasturtium, and I've seen hummingbird moths and butterflies in the sunflowers.
Calendula, sunflowers, borage and nasturtiums around my rhubarb.
These have really come into their own just when the rhubarb has mostly been harvested and is starting to look a little sad.  Makes me feel cheerful just looking at them!


  1. Every year around this time I really regret I didn't get around to planting annuals. Great idea, Irene, planting them right in with the veggies! Well, there's always next year...


    1. Next year you'll be retired, Susan! No excuses :) I'll admit that I absolutely adore Swiss chard for its red stems...I much prefer it as an ornamental than edible.

    2. Mmm - I like swiss chard to eat, too, but I like the colorful-stalked ones best. I regret planting any with the white stems (even though they grew so big that one leaf is all it takes for most dishes.)

  2. I like planting ornamental edibles, using red stem Okra, for example in my containers this year. Add a scarlet runner bean, and ornamental sweet potatoes, varied with some of the black and jade millets, and the rainbow corn stalks, ornamental multicolored pepper plants, and egg plants, not to mention the dark colored bok chois.