Be inspired to add some flavour to your outdoor space by the tasty plants in this lovely-looking edible garden
Fresh food growing right outside your back door is a tantalising prospect, and at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May The Chris Evans Taste Garden was designed to showcase the plants with the tastiest produce available. It was one of five Feel Good Gardens dedicated to the different senses at the show; and each garden was named after a BBC Radio 2 presenter in honour of the station’s 50th birthday. The Chris Evans Taste Garden also set out to demonstrate how attractive a practical garden like this can be and, whether you have a tiny window box or a large-scale plot, there are plenty of ideas on display here to help you cultivate your own crop.
Garden at a Glance
Show RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2017
Garden designer Jon Wheatley
Producing a garden to celebrate the nation’s favourite fresh home-grown fruit and veg was the idea behind The Chris Evans Taste Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Designer Jon Wheatley wanted to create an allotment-style garden to showcase the amazing variety of produce available, and to encourage visitors to experiment in their own gardens and enjoy the benefits that home-grown food brings. “This sort of garden is what we need to be producing,” says Wheatley. “I always say, ‘if society broke down tomorrow, would you be able to feed yourself?’ The public reaction to the garden was fantastic, and it was a great opportunity from the RHS to showcase what can be done.”
National treasure and food supremo Mary Berry, who grows her own vegetables at home, was on hand to give her input into the most useful produce for the home cook. “Mary was fantastic,” says Wheatley. “She was very keen on including plenty of pollinator-friendly plants, as well as her favourite vegetable, celeriac.” Here, tumbling vine-grown ‘Gardener’s Delight’ tomatoes are seen growing in the greenhouse. “These tomatoes, along with watercress and curly kale, would be my top three choices to grow in any edible garden,” adds Wheatley.
The courgettes ‘Shooting star’ and ‘Golden Griller’, and the cabbage ‘Red Jewel’ are all part of the healthy – and colourful – mix of vegetables. Dahlias, violas and nasturtiums are among the edible flowers in the garden (please note, only certain violas are edible), and prove that giving space over to growing produce doesn’t have to mean sacrificing a garden’s good looks. “I’m a great believer in using vegetables as part of the design,” says Wheatley. “They provide shape, form and texture, and offer great succession. Some varieties provide architectural forms that can last as long as nine months, which is much longer than the bedding plants seen in most gardens.”
Neat rows of lettuces and leeks have terracotta paths all around them, making them easy to access when they are ready to pick. Leaving enough space around plants is an important tip to remember when planting an edible garden at home – the plants need plenty of room to grow and spread, and without enough space between them, you risk treading on your precious produce at harvest time. The Taste Garden also featured plants in raised beds – the accessibility these beds provide makes it easier for those with reduced mobility to garden.
Towards the back of the garden, vibrant flowers and plants were included to attract bees and other pollinating insects. Wheatley nicknamed the zingy orangey-red Dahlia ‘Cheyenne’ the ‘Chris Evans’ dahlia, due to the resemblance of its bright red fronds to the DJ’s hair. “One side of the garden had bold red, orange and yellow colours for Chris Evans, and the other half had Mary Berry’s favourite mauve, purple and grey shades,” explains Wheatley.
Learn about the best flowers to grow for cutting
Wheatley took inspiration from allotments up and down the country when designing the Taste Garden. “An edible garden is not just about vegetables,” he says. “We also had a large olive tree, rhubarb, fruit and lots of herbs.” Ornamental kale ‘Redbor’ on the right is joined by roses, herbs, leeks and edible nasturtiums. A garden like this will need lots of water, so a water butt attached to guttering on the greenhouse is an eco-friendly way to collect rainwater, ready to use on the plants.
If you have space in your garden, a greenhouse is useful for bringing on tender plants – the one here is packed with antioxidant-rich tomatoes, sweet strawberries and fresh beans. There are even edible lily flowers growing in the ‘pond’. Again, please note that not all lilies are edible.
Tucked in among the bee-friendly flowers is a beehive. At the front, fronds of fragrant fennel are mixed with roses, dahlias and kale. Bees are a vital part of the food chain, pollinating everyday essentials such as tomatoes, beans and apples, but their numbers have been declining with the reduction of their natural habitats. This means it is more important than ever to create areas in your garden that will attract them by providing nectar and pollen for them.
Find out how to attract bees to your garden
More than 50 different types of fruit, vegetable and edible flowers were grown in nurseries for the show, ready for Wheatley to choose the varieties he wanted, including celeriac, Mary Berry’s favourite. “I wanted to create a garden that showcased unity, harmony and succession, as that’s what growing vegetables can provide,” says Wheatley.
When designing the garden, Wheatley was keen to ensure that parts of all the plants grown in this garden should be edible, whether leaves, flowers, roots or seeds. Here, the cabbage ‘Red Jewel’ is a great example of a vegetable that is both tasty and attractive.
Which fruit and veg do you grow in your garden? Share your ideas/photos in the Comments section.