The Garden Digs

5 Favorite Plants that Blur the Line between Ornamentals and Edibles

by Sue Guglin

Ordinary? Hardly! A fresh green, grassy clump of perennial chives offers textural contrast in the garden. Pretty magenta-rose, globe-shaped blooms make sturdy little cut flowers or a spicy onion-flavored garnish on your summer salads. Leaves and flowers are edible, but take out the flower stalks – they are too tough to chew.

There are many lovely basil varieties! One of my old favorites is the statuesque Thai Basil Siam Queen. At about 30” high, it is taller than most, but more refined and graceful with a licorice aroma. More attractive basil varieties to try include:

Cardinal – dark maroon flower heads.
Pluto – grows like a carefully pruned little shrub!
Red Ruby – large 3” burgundy leaves.

Pluto Basil from Seed Cardinal Basil from Seed
Pluto Basil and Cardinal Basil

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum)
Hot hues of orange, scarlet and gold flowers will spice up your presentation with their bright colors and peppery flavor. Whirlybird and Jewel are mounded plants, less vining than other types. Spicy flowers and leaves are edible, though older leaves can become bitter. Easy to grow from seed, they prefer a sunny spot and well-drained lean soil (low fertility).

Jewel Nasturtium from Seed
Jewel Nasturtium

Pansy, Viola
Lovely blossoms are mild in flavor, but bold in personality with their incredible range of colors. Flowers may be picked fresh and used immediately, or coated in a sugar solution to make “candied violets”. As violets are smaller than their large-flowered pansy counterparts, they are easier to work with as candied flowers. Both grow best in cooler weather; in warmer climates they excel in spring and fall. 

Pretty Pansy Cupcakes
Pretty Pansy Cupcakes

Swiss Chard Northern Lights Mix
Brightly colored stalks in red, yellow, magenta and white bear large, wavy, glossy green leaves. At about 2’ high, these jumbo size plants fill in flower or vegetable gardens and hold up better in the heat than many other greens. Stems and leaves are edible.

Swiss Chard Northern Lights from Seed
Northern Lights Mix Swiss Chard

Sue Guglin Sue Guglin is the Plant Program Product Manager at Harris Seeds and GardenTrends in Rochester, NY. Sue is a Cornell University graduate with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. Sue’s fruitful career in horticulture spans 30 years and has provided her the opportunity to work around the country in many climates and growing environments. Sue has experience working with plants, bulbs, seeds, and plugs and she is looking forward to sharing her vast product knowledge and growing wisdom.

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