Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Fabulous Ornamental Vegetable Garden (aka Pot-AH-ger)

I must say my Vegetable Garden/Potager has given me my most joy this year. It is not because it is doing fabulously, or looks good, or attracts butterflies and wildlife. I do enjoy all of those things but the main reason I love this garden so much has to do with my husband. He, being of the manly kind who prefers greasy cars and boats to wonderful smelling dirt; does not take much of an interest in my gardens. He enjoys them fair enough and knows they add to our home and property but generally they don't interest him-except for the potager. I always know when he's been browsing in it; which he does daily. I come into the kitchen and the counter will be filled with fresh vegetables from the garden courtesy of Mr. Fix-it. I simply love it that he takes an interest in this garden and this is why my potager gives me so much joy. 

While preparing this post on the potager I happened to look up at my large PVC arbor and spotted the crossvine 'Tangerine Beauty' blooming. Wow on it as it is my favorite native vine. In fact, I will soon (already done) be chopping down my wisterias in order to replace them with this lovely and less aggressive and less heavy crossvine. The crossvine  blooms in the above picture are about 15 high and were very dark so I used a fill flash. I like how the effect of these blooms came out against the cloudy sky. Crossvine is a rebloomer, reliable in sun or shade and not picky about soil or moisture. It is a lovely vine I've been growing many years so I would recommend it to others. It will spread pretty fast once happy so even though it is less aggressive than wisteria it still needs a strong support as it is no wimp in the garden.
Today was the day I finally removed the screen from my upstairs dormer and took a few aerial shots. Here I show you the vegetable garden in its entirety from the second story window. I wish pictures could give you the feel of the whole garden but they don't. However, I do think this long and high picture helps out with the scale of my backyard and the vegetable potager. We live on one acre and the amount of real estate in this picture probably encompasses only about one twelfth of the property. I try to fit lots of plants and gardens into my little one acre as you can tell. The PVC arbor is in the left hand corner of the picture and this is the east side of the vegetable garden proper. To the right of the vegetable garden is my very full Sunny Perennial Border. This border is about four feet wide and traverses the entire northern and eastern sides of the vegetable garden. To the north and south of the gardens there are multiple mature oak trees; which provide shade for the vegetable garden (tongue in cheek because of course you want NO shade for your vegetable garden says I). I'll orient you to what is what as I walk through the garden on my morning walk.
We enter one of three gates into the enclosed vegetable garden from the east under the PVC arbor which holds a crossvine and gelsemium as well as annual vines like cypress vine and hyacinth beans. The brick pathways are obscured by self seeders I allow to grow. The multiple self seeders in this walkway and picture include: 'Chocolate' eupatorium, chives, great blue lobelia, lambs ears, and beautyberries. Additionally catnip, sedums, flowering tobacco, verbena bonariensis, dill, zinnias, cleomes and cosmos grow among the cracks of the bricks in this garden. If you should spot a weed growing amongst the self seeders just let me know! I hate weeds here that's for sure. The plants soften the bricks and help to create a more diverse garden so I leave most of them and pull only those plants that I don't wish to self seed anymore or which are in my way when I walk in this garden. 

Many readers ask about the wonderful metal gates adorning my vegetable/potager garden. I was fortunate enough to purchase three of these gates (two are identical and this one stands alone) at the Nashville Flea Market several years ago. I painted them yellow with a good quality metal paint and have really loved them in my garden. If you are local and have not been the Nashville Flea Market you are missing out. I once read in one of my women's magazine that the Nashville Flea Market is rated as one of the best in the country. It is a wonderful place for great architectural finds for both the garden and the home. If you are not local but planning a visit to the region the Nashville Flea Market is generally held on the last weekend in each month except December. Check their website for more information.
Looking to the left as we enter the garden we see two beds. The first one contains blackberries (only one of two survived) I mail ordered from Farmer's Seed. It is a thornless type but I can't remember the name at this point. I also  transplanted another blackberry from another area in my garden to another location in the potager which will not be shown in this post. Among this bed are self seeding beauty berries. I will soon be digging them for the Montgomery County Master Gardener Plant sale scheduled for 8 October at the Habitat ReStore on Madison street. Directly behind this bed looking to the west-southwest is another bed you'll see better below. The chives, lamb's ears, lobelia and other plants in this area are all self seeders. This bed used to be my nursery bed until I moved the blackberry plant there.
Looking to the right I do not show the three 'Sunny' knockout roses or dwarf irises under the PVC arbor but take my word they are there. That small garden containing the roses is just to the right of the 5 gallon bucket you see in the picture. I leave a few buckets in this garden to not only catch rainwater but to tell me when I've reached one inch of water when I water with my sprinkler once per week.You can also use tuna cans set about in your garden to measure the amount of water your garden receives from sprinklers. 

The bed I focus on in this area contains the cantaloupes and vining crops and is not visible due to the sprawl of the vines. The vines have trickled onto the brick pathways. Normally I would train the vines to grow up my A-frames but for some reason I was negligent in doing this in this particular bed this year. Actually though, cantaloupes seem to do better when left to sprawl and I do not mind their sprawl because those fresh cantaloupes are just so good! We've picked one, lost one due to not picking it in time and still have four more cantaloupes to come. There is also a watermelon or squash vine growing in this bed. I won't know until the fruits are mature exactly what it is that grew but I do know I threw out both squash and watermelons here.
Looking back to the left past the blackberry bed with its self sowers we see a long bed containing carrots and zucchini (in the foreground under the A frame) that were successive sown in late June. They are doing well. On the other side of them are my four 'Better Boy' tomatoes. We are consistently picking tomatoes to eat fresh daily. Mr. Fix-it always eats tomatoes and cucumbers with his dinner. I'm not sure if this is something he established for health or not but it is a healthy habit. We obviously enjoy the fresh picked ones very much during the growing season. I have found that four tomato plants are just about perfect for our family of three. I have enough to eat daily but not quite enough to freeze; which I would like. But nonetheless it works out for us with our small vegetable garden.
This round bed used to hold bananas. It was the focal point of my potager but I decided to remove the bananas last year. It took a LOT of work to completely remove them since they were so well established but I don't regret taking them out. I decided to consolidate my fruits and vegetable all to one location this year so all edibles would be fairly centrally located. Here I have planted two 'Bluecrop' blueberries from another location in my garden then I added two new blueberry bushes last fall. They are 'Powderblue' and 'Climax'. You'll see a ripe 'Powderblue' below. 'Powderblue' and 'Climax' are rabbiteye bluebeerries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and the 'Bluecrop' is a northern highbush blueberry. I have found the 'Bluecrop' never needed a pollinator but I did have two of the 'Bluecrop' and they apparently worked together to produce a good crop each year-once they matured after about four years. The 'Powderblue' and 'Climax', the rabbiteye cultvars (Vaccinium ashei), are recommended for the south but in my experience I like the 'Bluecrop' or highbush berries better for my garden. To be fair it may be that the two new rabbiteyes I just added last fall need more time to mature but so far their ripening dates are a bit out of order for me. The 'Bluecrop' was ready for picking in late June to early July (even though the robins ate them all). I like the large crop at this time. So far this year the 'Climax' really did not produce and the 'Powderblue' are producing but it doesn't seem like the berries are coming at a logical time. They are just now ripening up nicely in mid August. To me that is late but I guess it can be good considering the blueberry season is very long in my garden. Now if I could just get more than a handful or so I'll be content with the rabbiteyes. I'll give all the bushes time to grow. As we all know gardeners have lots of time and so we'll see how it goes for the blueberries. Remember, blueberries must have a pH of between 4.5-5.2 in order for them to do well. Be sure to soil test prior to planting these berries.
Just past the bed that houses my Pumpkin on Stick is another long bed (the northern side of the potager). Here is an ornamental self seeder I did not mention already. It is of course night blooming jimsonweed, aka Datura stramonium. It is a wonderful ornamental that provides the southern nighttime fragrance that is heavenly. The flowers only last one day and bloom in the evening to late morning then they are gone. These flowers positively glow at night. I never know where this night bloomer will sprout up but tend to let one or two of them grow so I'll have plants for next year because this plant is a tender perennial. It will not return in my Zone 6B garden next year. In and amongst its leaves you can see basil that is going to seed, and if you look closely you'll see the cucumber plants growing in this bed. Again, my potager/vegetable garden is an ornamental as well as functional garden for me. I believe in mixing things up in the garden and have the art down pretty well after all these years of gardening here in my Tennessee home. My garden is not going to be a designed garden because I wish to grow everything and anything and mix it all up in different ways. Ways many gardeners might cringe at but as is my gardening mantra, gardens must reflect the gardener and please only the gardener. If they don't and you have a garden then you either have an outside gardener or are a business person looking for curb appeal or to keep up with others or you are not a gardener. But my feelings on gardens might best be left for another post. But truthfully, who would garden if their garden did not please them and they did not strive to produce a garden they like?
Now on to close up of veggies. The pepper plants are growing under the A frame containing the many cucumbers and they are doing quite well. There is a tomato leaf in front of the pepper. I did not plant this tomato-it was a volunteer from last year that self seeded in the bricks and I just let it go to see what I would get.
The cantaloupes are doing quite well. They will most likely all ripen at once like they did last year. Here you can see some cosmos and flowering tobacco leaves. The cantaloupe vines spread into the self seeders but surprisingly all are working well together.
Here is the 'Powderblue' berry I promised you above. I ate this berry and a few others as soon as I was done taking the picture. It was a special treat.
We in the Ramsey family just celebrated a major milestone in our lives. Our baby Jimmy just turned 17! He is a senior in high school and will be graduating next year. It's so hard for us to believe. Here we are singing him Happy Birthday and getting ready for him to open his gifts and cut his cake. He returned home late after having a nice dinner with his girlfriend. You know during the teen years girlfriends are really important to young men. Jimmy had a fantastic birthday and we are looking forward to a good senior year and his graduation in the spring. It will be the first graduation both Mr. Fix-it and I will be able to attend. When the older three children graduated he and I were both deployed. Since our retirements we know that won't happen again. My mother also recently celebrated her birthday. There are lots of August birthdays in our family so let me just say to all a Happy Birthday....

in the garden....

Words and Photos Property of In the Garden Blog Team, In the Garden


  1. First off Happy Birthday to your son! We have a lot of August b-days in my family too. Glad Mr. Fix-it is taking a interest in the garden, my hubby in recent years has done the same. We both enjoy the fresh veggies. :) Your garden is looking very lush & healthy, thanks for the tour.

  2. I do like your philosophy about gardening. Do what pleases you and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Your garden speaks volumes about your personality: Warm, welcoming, hospitable.

    Happy Birthday to Jimmy and best wishes to all of you.

  3. Happy Birthday Jimmy! Wow you have so many variety of plants in your potager. I am really curious about your banana plant.Hope you post it in the future. Your cantaloupe is a beauty. Made me crave for some.

  4. A big Happy Birthday to the Jimster! We have a lot of birthdays in August in our family, too; my dad turned 86 last Saturday, and my oldest granddaughter is "sweet sixteen" today. We'll be eating lots of birthday cake:)

    Funny that Mr. Fix-it takes so much interest in your veggie garden; my husband is the same way. He grumbles about having to mow around all my flowerbeds, but every night tomatoes and other veggies magically appear on my kitchen counter:)

  5. Isn't it great when our hubbies enjoy the garden too. Mine likes to harvest peppers and hunt squash bugs. Ha!
    That is really a nice vine. I hope it does all that you're hoping for in the space.
    The aerial photo is great. Really does show more of the layout. Don't begrudge the trees. I'd take a few more. But, I'd take more acres too.
    I also let all kinds of things grow in the cracks unless they're in the way. I walked around a lot of dill earlier this year. Your gates are wonderful. I like that you painted them yellow. It looks good with the green plants.
    Nice looking tomatoes. So tall!
    Your Datura looks just like mine. Mine resprouts each year but it is in a protected spot. I do save seed though just in case and usually have a few self seeders which I pull because I don't have space for all of them. The hail storm kind of split my plant but it is blooming just fine. More sprawling now.
    I hope Jimmy has a great senior year!!!! Can't blame him on wanting to be with the girlfriend too. My hubby and I were high school sweethearts. I'm sure our families were like, "you just saw him/her." Ha! Oh, to be 17 again.
    Loved the tour. Take care!

  6. I love your potAHger and that fact that Mr Fix-it likes it, too! But most of all, bar none, I adore that yellow iron gate. Awesome!

  7. Happy Birthday (again) To the Jimster! And Happy Belated Birthday to Miss Jean! Somehow, I missed that one sweet lady....

    I am so on the look out for a gate for the garden and love the Yellow color as it pops against the green of the garden! I love Green and Yellow together and think that view of yours is awesome....

    On the Beauty Berry. Please forget to take one to the Oct Sale. I will be there sometime later that month and would love to buy one from you! So if one is left behind, it is mine okay? I have been looking for the beauties in our Garden Centers ever since seeing them in your gardens but have yet to spot one. So I must now beg you for one. Please please please…

    I find that the hubbys pay more attention to the edible portion of the garden then the pretty part. My neighbor (the good one, not the other ones) says, “if he cannot eat it, he aint planting it”. Like Mr Fixit, the Saint enjoys the surrounding beauty as well. Now if only I could teach him how to weed for me. hee hee….

    Have a Great Day!

  8. Skeeter, I'll pot a large one up just for you. These are best in a wild garden and mine do tend to self seed. Might be good or bad for you.

  9. Nice tour today but now I am tired and hungry!! As always it all looks so good.

    Yup we have a lot of birthdays in August with you starting it all. Then I have 3 grandkids, 1 great grandkid and then hubby.

    I love the first picture, very pretty flower.

    Thanks Skeeter!

  10. Very interesting Tina. I do know all about giant oak trees. Fortunately our farmers neighbor lets us use a portion of his corn/soybean field.

  11. Afternoon All.
    Tina what a lovely garden. It's so lush.
    Happy Birthday to the Jimster. Miss Jean I hope you had a wonderful special day. Birthdays are wonderful to have & I hope all had/have a marvelous day on your special day.

  12. Wow! Time flies. It is always bittersweet when my kids are seniors.
    I love your potager, it is pretty and eclectic! Your cantaloupe looks tasty.

  13. This was a wonderful tour of your gardens. You have so much packed in there and I like HOW the garden is planted. Not only are there lots of wonderful fruit and veggies, but a lot of visual interest too. Your first photo looks like a pretty piece of fabric the way the vines fall and flowers set. Happy birthday to your fine looking son.

  14. My husband has really been enjoying our vegetable garden this year, even taking on most of the watering. It looks like your garden is doing really well. You have so many different things growing. We have 'Bluecrop' too, it's a newer one in the garden but already producing well.
    Happy Birthday to Jimmy!

  15. What a lovely family photo. Happy birthday Jimmy. Thanks for the tour of your potager Tina. I would love to be able to grow banana plants. I can't believe you took them out to grow blueberries :) perhaps because blueberries grow wild here. :)

  16. You are very blessed to have such a large piece of land so you can find sunny areas for sun loving plants. I have quite a bit of shade but grow veggies anyway.