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Decorative Fruit 
and Vegetables

One tends to think of vegetables and fruit as being grown either in special gardens or in beds within gardens that are devoted solely to them. There is, however, no reason why they should not be mixed with plants that are grown for decorative purposes. Most gardens have flowering and foliage plants, so why not mix a few vegetables in with them?

Many vegetables, such as these purple
-leaved Brussels sprouts, have
dramatic leaves that make a vegetable
plot look very striking.

Decorative vegetables

Some vegetables seem to have been created for inclusion in decorative schemes. Ruby chard, also known as red-stemmed Swiss chard or rhubarb chard, is a perfect example. Although it is good to eat, its vivid red stems and deep purple foliage make it an ideal 
border plant, particularly in a position where a touch of bright colour is required. Beetroot (beets), while perhaps not quite as colourful, can be used in the same way.

Colour is not all. The foliage of carrots may not be particularly unusual in colour, but it has a wonderful filigree shape and soft texture. These qualities can be used to soften or link two neighbouring colours, or to break up an area of rather solid foliage.

Climbing plants, such as beans, peas, marrows (zucchini) and squashes, can be used to cover arbours and pergolas. Colourful squashes and marrows hanging down in a walkway can be an attractive, if unexpected, sight.

Decorative fruit

Fruit is even more adaptable than veget-ables. Apple or plum trees create a dappled shade that is perfect for sitting under or for creating beds in which to grow shade-loving plants. They can be grown against walls as cordons, espaliers or fans, where they create beautiful two-dimensional patterns that can be even more attractive than conventional climbers. In addition to the shape, there are the blossom and the fruit to enjoy, and the leaves of some varieties of pears have wonderful autumn colours.

Walls are not the only way to display trained fruit trees. They can be used to decorate arbours, pergolas and arches. Grapes can also be used in this type of position, rather than training them in a regimented way against wirework in a fruit garden.

Some bush fruit, red currants and gooseberries in particular, can be grown as 
tree-form standards – that is, they have a thin, unbranched trunk with the “bush” 
sitting on top. These can look extremely attractive in borders and beds, especially 
if they are the centrepiece. Naturally, they look best when they are in full fruit.

Even strawberries can be used in a dec-orative manner. Alpine strawberries make good edging plants for borders. A single line between the border and a path, for example, can be extremely effective, especially as they have a long flowering season. They work really well around the edge of herb gardens but can be used in any type of border.

Many vegetables are decorative in their
own right. Both the flowers and foliage
of these 
climbing beans are purple. 

Decorative herbs

Although herbs can be kept together in a separate garden, they do lend themselves particularly well to being spread around the garden in the decorative borders. Shrubby plants, such as rosemary, sage and thyme, have an obvious decorative function, but so do many of the herbaceous varieties. The thin, grass-like leaves of chives, for example, contrast well with the bolder shapes of hostas, and they are also particularly good for edging paths. The frothy leaves of parsley can be used in much the same way.

Many herbs can be grown in decorative borders for their flowers rather than their leaves. The leaves of bergamot (Monarda), for example, are used as a herb, but the 
flowers, which are a bright bold red, are exceptionally decorative, making this a superb border plant.

An Ornamental Fruit Garden

Fruit gardens should be laid out in the most productive way possible, ensuring 
that each plant has sufficient space to grow and develop as well as plenty of air and light. However, this does not prevent a fruit garden from being designed in an 
attractive way that makes the most of the natural beauty of the fruit trees and bushes.