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Potager design pays off in the spring

By Penny Stine

See these itty bitty plants? See the tiger lilies sprouting in between the snapdragons?



The peas sprouting in the garlic? The alyssum compacta that’s flourishing with the spinach? 



Actually, you can't see the spinach from this photo - it's still too tiny. You probably can't see the peas, either. As I was strolling through my garden the other day and checking to see if my spinach had gotten any bigger, (sadly, no) the sight of the perennials popping up made me happy I’d decided to turn my growing efforts into a potager, which is just a French term for a kitchen garden that mixes veggies, flower, herbs, annuals and perennials in the same beds.

Before last year, I’d always planted a somewhat traditional garden in rows. I’d have a row of beans or peas or tomatoes, separated by straight pathways, which invariably got filled with weeds. I didn’t do too many flowers, and the garden was visually interesting for just a few months out of the year, when the vegetables finally got big enough to be noticeable.

Last year I experimented with potager gardening and liked the results, even though I started everything from seed, including perennials like lavendar, blanketflower and hollyhocks. Most of the perennials were so small they didn’t bloom.

I’m pleased that most of the perennials are back and looking good. I’m planning to mix in even more flowers in my new garden, just ‘cuz I like the way it looks. I’ve got a few columbines, some lavender and a couple coral bells that I started from seed, all of which will remain ridiculously small and probably won’t flower this year. So I’ll rely on zinnias, marigolds, nasturtium and my new fave plant, amaranth, for color this year. As the photo below shows, the amaranth is no slouch when it comes to adding visual appeal to a garden!


I collected seeds from the amaranth in this picture last fall before I cleaned up the garden. If anyone wants a few, send me an E-mail and I'll share. 


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