Saturday, May 4, 2013

Bedding Plants for Your Plate!

     Trees are the bones of a site.  They create the height and overall feel of the site.  They also work to alter the micro-climate by creating shade and altering the amount of wind within the general area around them.  Shrubs are the flesh of the site.  They bring the eye down closer to the ground and provide the visual screens and provide a greater sense of the scale of the site.  Shrubs also provide more color than trees for a good part of the year and bring green life closer to people on the site.  Both are still large and off the ground.  To complete the site you will need bedding and bedding plants.  They are the skin of the site.  They provide the opportunity for close-up interaction with the plants of the site and add  variety, color and texture.
     Most often bedding plants are composed of annual and perennial flowering plants and of bulbs and
Tomatoes can be colorful!
tubers.  You can also get color and texture by using food producing plants.  They also can be annuals, perennials and bulbs.  Even in a very formal site design with carefully hedged shrubs and closely clipped grass, vegetables and herbs can be used as bedding plants.
     In order to make your site work for you in this way, consider the mature size of the plants that you want to use.  Remember that many vegetable plants get fairly tall and that others spread out and take up a good deal of land area.  You might need to look into dwarf varieties of plants to get them to fit into your design.  Also remember that most food producing plants need full sun.  When choosing locations for your bedding plant vegetable plantings, check to ensure that the plants will receive adequate light to meet their individual requirements.  Finally, if you are using food crops for bedding plants, remember that you will probably need to provide them with more maintenance than in a less visible location.  This really translates to picking vegetables as they ripen, keeping them trimmed and keeping the areas under them mulched and weed free.  As bedding plants they will be much more visible than they would have been if placed in a more specific 'vegetable garden' location.

A pumpkin flower can be very pretty
   You can use plants that produce flowers and then fruit with the fruit being the ornamental aspect of the plant used.   For these plants, try peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.  All will fit in easily to the front or outer edge of a shrub planting and provide lovely color as well as produce.
     For colorful and showy flowers, try planting squash and their close cousins of cucumber, and any of the melons and pumpkins.  The flowers are lovely with five petals and bright colors in the yellow to orange range.  They are also usually large and, depending on the plant selected, often also edible.  With plants of this type, keep in mind that they are vines in nature and will spread out and take up large amounts of land area.  Provide for that need in advance.
     Bedding plants can provide interesting texture to your site.  For fine or ruffled texture, try using parsley,
Red leaf lettuce add color
thyme, rosemary and fennel.  The parsley will have the added advantage of providing habitat to swallowtail butterflies who will be attracted to your site.  Fennel provides a great deal of year-round color, and thyme has the added advantage of being unappealing to deer - in case deer browse is a problem.
     Finally, you can add color through leaves rather than through flowers and still have food production as well.  For possible leaf color plants, you could try Swiss chard with its flaming red stems, or cabbage and leaf lettuce with red and purple coloring.   
     Try finishing off your site with bedding plants that can also be eaten.  Make your site work for you to provide a beautiful garden and a fresh and appealing plate. 

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