The Garden of Eatin’

November’s Garden Blogger’s Design Workshop, hosted by Gardening Gone Wild, is Incorporating Edibles in the garden. I’m late. It’s December – which just gave me more time to sort through photos to see what I have to offer.

Left: The “before” of the potager. It sits between the diamond checkerboard of steppable grasses (which looks better in this view than close-up.) and the patio.

The single greatest patch of edibles I’ve incorporated into the design of my garden is my raised-bed potager, shown up top, which is just fancy-talk for vegetables in dirt held in by concrete blocks. I like the idea of adding my own dirt and compost. God only knows what’s been dumped in this small city lot in the last 120 years.

Right: the inspiration: Villandry potager gardens, Loire Valley, France.

Rather than having ordinary rows of veggies, I was inspired by a trip to the potager gardens of Villandry, in the Loire Valley of France. I now have symmetrically-laid out quadrants of vegetables, with boxwood-hedge-defined squares of vegetables with gravel paths, a trellis for climbing vegetables, a rose standard dead center, and an apple espalier forming a fence around the whole thing. It’s only 12’x10′. You can see a past post and more pictures about it here. You can see my Villandry posts here and here.

Left: the beginning of a knee-high apple tree espalier to form a low “fence” around the raised-bed potager.

It’s young. The miniature boxwoods have not grown enough to create a seamless divider. The espaliered apples have not had a chance to even start branching correctly yet. There’s one on each side, and guide wires to encourage two rows of branches. I only put them in last July. Next year I’ll be doing a lot of tieing back and strategic trimming.

Right: Monet’s espalier at Giverny.

The apple espaliered fence is an idea I stole from Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, and other formal potager gardens I’ve visited – mostly in the Loire Valley. Espaliers can actually be traced back to the Romans.

Left: The potager at mid-summer.

As opposed to the normal boring-looking vegetable garden we’ve had for years, these edibles add even more structure to an already structured yard. It also makes a strong design statement out of an area that was sort of haphazard previously–and looked like everyone else’s veg garden. Downside? I have less space for vegetables.

Right: the espalier doesn’t take as much tending and nurturing as you would think.

Another edible feature incorporated into the yard is the diamond-shaped pear, plum and apple espalier that forms one “wall” of my deck. It sits against the garage wall. It’s very protected there. This was inspired by some great espaliered trees I saw in Niagara Falls, in the park along the Canadian side of the Falls. You can see more about the espalier, and how it was constructed here. Full Disclosure: Other than three plums last year, it’s yet to bear any fruit. Here’s a post about the tree bait-and-switch and my ignorance regarding fruit.

Left: the Columnar Apple tree.

In the front yard, I have two edibles that add tremendous structure amongst the annuals and perennials. First is another apple tree, this time a columnar apple. Being somewhat space challenged, the apple tree, which is about 12′ tall and only a couple feet wide, is the perfect tree for this particular spot. Could have used a Rocket Juniper. This is way cooler.

My favorite edible incorporated into the garden is my horseradish plant. It has the best-looking leaves of any perennial in the garden–narrow, tall (3′-4′), deep green thick leaves with sort of a wavy, hilly surface. Needs little to no propping up. Only nostalgic gardeners recognize it during Garden Walk. It’s an old-timey vegetable garden plant. It’s a great compliment to a perennial border garden.

Right: I couldn’t find a better shot of the horseradish

It’s been a few years since we made horseradish (we call it “ornamental” now), but we have made horseradish sauce from the root. It’s really easy – white vinegar and salt added to the ground-up roots. The hard part comes when, after you’ve ground up the root in the blender, you have to open the blender.

When you open it, run as fast as you can for the next room. The strength of the smell will water your eyes, eliminate all nose hairs and make your ears bleed. Last time we did it, we took the blender outside. This is not an activity for the faint of heart.

18 comments on “The Garden of Eatin’

  1. Considering how cold it is (I’m in Boston; almost as bad as Buffalo, if less snowy), the photos are inspiring. They make me feel warm. And the horseradish sauce story made me smile. I guess there’s hope that spring and summer — and warm weather — will eventually return.


  2. Potager, nice fancy word! I would love to see an aerial view of your garden, maybe that’s in the links to previous posts, I’ll have to check. Nifty idea! My parents have lots of apple trees on espaliers, it seems to work well for the edge of their garden. Someone in my neighborhood espaliered figs on the street, I thought that was pretty awesome too.


  3. Judy Lowe/Diggin It,Actually it’s about 30 degrees and there’s no snow here, but thanks. Sorting through the photos made me feel warmer too. I’m not even thinking about returning warmer weather yet. We have to get through January and February first.Karen,I love my espaliers and am always contemplating more!


  4. Jim, your comments about horse radish reminded me of grating it at college, we had everyone in a large kitchen crying and ended up outside on a bitterly cold day! Never again, onions are nothing compared with horse radish.I have always liked your posts about your potager but your espalier fruit trees against the wall are fantastic. Every time I see that picture I think “I must do that”!Best wishes Sylvia (England)PS I have a guest post at http://www.tulipsinthewoods.com


  5. Sylvia,I am surprised there aren't more deaths attributed to horseradish preparation. Thank you for the kind words about the espalier & potager. You should do an espalier. The only hard work of putting up the framework of wire isn't really even that hard–and only takes an afternoon (if you wake up late on the weekends like I do).


  6. Your garden is lovely and I’m very impressed with the columnar apple tree and the espaliers. I’ve always wanted to try them. You do realized that you will only be able to grow one veggie per quadrant once those boxwoods take off? We are putting in yews and boxwoods in a couple of areas of the garden where I want them to turn into a Jacques Wirtz wave.


  7. I have always liked the idea of taken formal gardens and plant elements such as espalier and then making something wild out of it.


  8. I love your espalier! I’ve been so tempted, but having been here only 3 years and starting from scratch, I’ve not gotten to it, yet. Maybe, someday!Cameron


  9. Forgot to mention that “Garden of Eatin’ ” is the name of the vegetarian pizza at one of our local pizza joints.


  10. Ms.Wis,They are miniature boxwoods, but yes, I’m aware I have to keep them tightly trimmed to keep them from going gonzo. Good luck on the wave – love to see that on the your blog. The name Garden of Eatin’ I know I’ve seen other places – I was afraid that there was a blog already out there with that name.Cameron,Plant the espalier quick – you’re already three years behind.Susan,I’ve visited a fair share of very formal gardens in France, England, Belgium and Italy and am always looking for ideas to steal- formal or not. Espaliers add a design element and structure without having to build something like an arbor or trellis.


  11. Great post. You’ve inspired me to rethink my sewing strategy. Must get through a bitter Cleveland winter first, though.Thanks…great pix, too.


  12. Thanks so much for sharing this for the GGW Design Workshop, Jim. Some of the elements I’d seen in your previous posts; others I had somehow missed before. You’ve given some great examples of how to work a lot of edibles into a relatively limited space. (I must also say that I was impressed at how much your potager looked like Villandry, until I read the caption and realized that it *was* Villandry. I like yours better!)


  13. Dan,Sewing strategy?Nan,I enjoy putting posts together for the GGW Design Workshops – thanks for coordinating them. No part of my garden will ever look like Villandry, but I’m glad you like mine better. Even if you’re lying.


  14. I so enjoy how you cram, I mean design, so much into small spaces. As my husband tells me, “you have a 10 acre imagination for our 1/4 acre lot”.


  15. Lisa,Your husband has a good blend of philosophic thinking, poetic minimalist written expression and unbridled sarcasm. I could learn from him.


  16. Whoops…sowing strategy.


  17. You have some very neat ideas, and a nice start on that potager! I want to try some espalier myself with a mulberry tree. There’s an old apple tree near my home that was espaliered (sp?) on a fence many years ago. The fence is gone, and the tree looks totally cool.


  18. lisa,Thank you. The potager won’t really look cool until it matures. Wimpy dividers and the almost invisible espalier make people wonder what I’m doing. I’ll show ’em. I’ll show ’em all!Do the mulberry espalier!


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