MODERN GARDENS have to work hard these days – especially if you want to grow a mix of ornamental and edible plants all in the same small space. The answer is to create a potager garden, where flowers and attractive fruits and vegetables grow side by side.
In France, where the word originates, potager referred to an ornamental as well as practical space, and brought together not only vegetables and flowers but also herbs, medicinial plants and fruit trees and shrubs, often with some well-clipped topiary on the side.
With gardens short on space today, there’s much to be said for a design style that’s both productive and beautiful. The key to achieve this is establishing a strong pattern in the layout that will still look good even when crops have been harvested, offering structure throughout winter. Formality works well, and helps echo the traditional straight lines so often associated with vegetable growing and cutting gardens.
It’s helpful to include permanent design features that add height, as we have done here with the gourd and bean arches, along with the shaped yew hedge, which shields the compost bins from view.
And finally, never forget to stop and enjoy the view – and the harvest! The garden seat offers a view along the centre of the garden, while a good-sized dining terrace next to the house (not pictured) allows you to eat your produce within the space where it grew.
BEFORE: The regular, rectangular shape of this empty garden is perfect for introducing a formal layout that relies on a concentric pattern of L-shaped, cut-away island borders. No border is wider than 1.5m (5ft) and they’re all separated by even gravel paths of the same width, which means the crops are all easy to access from either side.
Create formal geomtery
The garden is laid out using a strong, geometric pattern that creates an attractive formal garden design all year round.
Divide space with stepover apple trees
Grown on dwarfing rooting stocks, these stepover apple trees are trained as a single horizontal stem and are perfect for growing fruit in an attractive, space-saving way.
Add a bench under a gourd arch
An attractive bench has been placed under a strong wire framework that will support eye-catching, ornamental gourds in autumn.
Create bean archways
Different bean varieties can be grown up a wire archway to create a leafy tunnel as well as providing an easy way to harvest the beans.
Hide compost bins with yew
This elegantly shaped yew hedge adds both year-round structure to the garden as well as usefully hiding a view of the compost bins from the house and dining terrace.
Grow cut flowers Potagers often include rows of cut flowers and here there’s plenty of space given over to growing blooms to cut for the house.
Use companion planting The beds contain a mix of herbs, vegetables and flowers allowing for plenty of companion planting opportunities, such as chives planted with carrots or pot marigolds alongside tomatoes and beans.
Lay sweepable brick paths Basketweave brick paths give a traditional feel and are also practical – any mess made during cultivation and harvesting is easy to sweep up.
Keep compost looking neat Two compost bins, each a cubic metre in capacity, sit side by side to allow for turning. The wooden slats at the front are removable to ensure the finished compost is easy to access.
Train fruit into a fan No space is wasted as even the fences and walls are used to support fan-trained fruit trees, which look attractive all year round, from spring blossom and autumn fruits to their winter skeletons.