Veg beds are traditionally rather functional things. Straight rows, full of vegetables grown for the purpose of eating.
However, with a little adventure, things don’t have to be like that. If like me, you’re growing vegetables in your garden, splashes of colour and decoration are almost a necessity if they’re going to hold their own amongst the ornamentals.
That was almost a prerequisite from Ailsa when we agreed I could put a veg patch in the garden at our new house. It had to be pretty, and so in readiness for perking up my patch, I began drawing up a list of the most attractive vegetables.
If I could only grow one veg for the rest of my life, I think squash could be it. Aside from the functional qualities of this vegetable, the beautiful colours and wonderful shapes of different varieties would keep me happy for always.
The plants’ sprawl across the plot, but somehow I don’t mind them draping over everything else, especially when the little fruits begin to form.
This perennial is a relative of the thistle and would look at home in any flower garden. They grow tall and majestic, with attractive silvery green leaves that make a remarkable recovery in late winter.
When the artichokes flower in early summer, they produce a glorious purple colour (pictured); one of my favourite sights of the allotment year. The bees love them too.
Being a winter hardy, chard will provide colour to a veg plot when all around it is dying off. The plants are cut and come again too, so keep picking, and the colour will remain until the following spring.
The vivid stalks are edible, adding interest to dishes. For vibrant colours, try Bright Lights.
I love growing peas up wigwams. Vertical structures bring a plot to life, and the delicate flowers of a pea plant are a midsummer highlight.
If the pale white flowers aren’t exciting enough for you, try the deep purple of Blauwschokker.
Sweet potatoes can be tricky customers in the UK, as they like a good deal of warmth. However, they’re well worth a go for the verdant green leaves which provide attractive ground coverage.
I like to grow them in pots as patio plants. Not only have I had my best crops using this method, they’ve had many visitors asking after them due to their lush appearance.
Purple seems to be a theme amongst striking vegetable plants, and the perennial chive bursts on to the scene at the end of summer. For such an unfussy plant, a clutch of chive makes a big impact on any plot, especially if sown along borders.
And some more purple to finish! Kale variety Scarlet produces dark purple, crimped leaves that provide a stark contrast to leafy green veg that fills the winter beds.
The stalked varieties can grow to nearly a metre high, and as another cut and come again variety, will keep colour on the plot all through the winter.