The Sally Adams Vegetable Terraces at the Columbus Botanical Garden in Columbus, Ga., is a feast for the eyes yet provides needed produce in the community. (Norman Winter/TNS)

Cool season edibles offer dazzling beauty for the garden or landscape

The cool season vegetable garden can be one of incredible beauty all the while providing tasty produce. Such is the case with the Columbus Botanical Garden. Their Sally Adams vegetable terraces, located adjacent to the old historic Gin House, were designed by the renowned landscape architecture firm, Studio Outside Landscape Architecture of Dallas Texas.

The stone terraces planted with seasonal vegetables are always worthy of being photographed and dazzle as part of the overall landscape. Best known as a tourist stop, the owners make regular contributions of produce to Mercy Med for distribution to people who need it the most.

The Terraces are planted by volunteers under the watchful eye of the Director and have truly become a hit with the local community. Recently I attended a pre-Gala party just before sunset and was mesmerized by its beauty.

There was a stunning array of color and texture provided cabbage, kale, collards, mustard, lettuce, and chard along with a tantalizing selection of herbs. The volunteers have supplemented the plantings with Cool Wave pansies that will soon cascade over the rock walls.

Even if you don’t have a dedicated vegetable garden like the one in Columbus, you can grow a bounty of tasty veggies, incorporating them in the landscape, mixed containers, and even baskets. These crops are so wonderfully ornamental even the toughest HOA ‘police force’ will approve.

The edible landscape concept is a scorching hot trend not just for the culinary artist in the kitchen, but for the Monet-like designer gardening outdoors. Brie Arthur a rock star horticulturist and friend, has recently written a book titled “The Foodscape Revolution.” You can put her tips and techniques in place immediately or get prepared for spring.

In Columbus Ga., this concept gets applied to mixed containers at the finest shopping centers and in high profile entrances to neighborhoods and upscale apartment complexes. If you are thinking I am just talking kale and cabbage, I am not, although they are certainly high on the list. There are a lot more edible beauties just sitting outside these favorite boutiques.

You are likely to see collards with pansies, Swiss chard or Red Giant mustard with snapdragons, violas with red leaf lettuce and architecturally wonderful plants like cardoon and dinosaur kale. Such is the wonder and fun once you too, start growing cool-season vegetables.

All of these cool-season vegetables love those light and fluffy soil mixes you find in mixed containers. In the landscape, they will thrive as well as long as you have good fertile well-drained soil and plenty of sun to allow them to really perform up to your expectations

The Garden Guy was raised in the south, and when it comes to eating, the thought of fried catfish, cornbread and a heaping pile of mustard greens, collards, or swiss chard cooked like spinach, will trump landscape beauty on many occasions.

Those of in zones 7-10 have a lot of edible landscape opportunities before spring planting. Those in colder zones should try these in window sill type crops. Visit your favorite garden center this weekend. You’ll find plants that will allow you to dress up the landscape before the holidays while creating some incredible, combinations with edibles.

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Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.

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