The French term potager expresses the beautiful, ornamental potential of edible plants.
A potager was traditionally a kitchen garden that emphasized beauty as well as fresh flavor. While you might find many of the same things growing in an ordinary vegetable garden and a fancy potager, the vegetable garden is more likely to have utilitarian rows of corn and potatoes and other “crops,” while the potager emphasizes eye-pleasing arrangements of fresh-picked beauties like lettuce, herbs, and even edible flowers. It might be helpful to think of a vegetable garden and a potager, not as distinctly different, but as gardens on a related spectrum. The vegetable garden at one extreme is entirely utilitarian. The potager at the other extreme might resemble the famous gardens at Villandry in France where blue leeks and red cabbages are planted out like annual flowers.
I lost my large vegetable garden with its picket fence and raised beds when we installed a new driveway here at Maplehurst. This year, I’ll be growing some of my own food again, but with a potager flare. I’ve identified a spot near our gravel terrace for four square beds. Here are a few of the eye-catching flavors I’ll be planting out in them:
- ‘French Breakfast’ radish
- ‘Cool Mint’ lettuce
- Swiss Chard
- ‘Lacinato’ kale
- Cherry tomato
- Beets (red and gold)
- Jalapeno pepper
- Mini yellow bell pepper
- viola (like the Johnny Jump-ups pictured above)