The Onion Flower

Writer and Horticulturist

Vegetables Heart Flowers


I thought of photoshopping out the clothesline, but this is the practical reality of an urban garden.

My backyard garden is small, maybe 300 square feet and some of that is concrete and some in deep shade. Although I am determined to grow as much of my own food as possible I still love the beauty and pleasure flowers give and would never consider doing without them. The garden is my refuge and where I spend summers with friends and loved ones or read with a glass of iced tea on a hot day. Or, as the weekend dictates share a beer instead.

Man and Beer in Garden

To make all this possible I follow a scaled-down version of polyculture. At its most basic this involves interplanting edibles with ornamentals in such a way that they both benefit.

Snapdragons, Cucumber Plants & Dill

For instance flowers and herbs bring in more pollinators, the scent of dill repels cabbage moth and marigolds release a substance in the soil that kills parasitic nematodes. These are all great side benefits but what I really care about is how pretty the garden is and whether or not my vegetables will produce happily. I plan my garden all winter; changing my mind dozens of times over where things will go, and what they will go with. Small spaces can restrict creativity but also help to narrow down choices –  something I find hard to do. It also becomes more difficult to rotate crops from where they were the previous year when space is limited. When one plants beans or tomatoes here and there instead of in one perfect row it is difficult to remember exactly where they were.

Tomatoes, Rose & Iris

Then there are my edible or beneficial weeds – I don’t usually have to plant these because nature does it for me. Garlic mustard, Nettles, Lambs Quarter, etc… Although many of these are invasive I find the best way to combat that is to eat or use them. So although my garden looks like a muddle(and it is), there really is a method to the madness. As much as I admire other gardeners’ straight lines of crinkly lettuce and docile peas scrambling up their well-spaced out supports I could never maintain such a garden.

My garden is a bit of a jungle but it’s one that provides.

Jungle Garden


6 thoughts on “Vegetables Heart Flowers

  1. Hi, When was helping David pack you were wondering about a vine to help cover the fence. have you thought of Virginia Creeper, it seems to grow in sun and shade and grows fairly quickly. Also wild grape looks good. I’ve always wanted to plant a wild cucumber vine as it is a lime green shade and has lovely white flowers and grows profusely however it is hard to find as it is an invasive plant. Good luck!!!! k.

    • Thank-you Kathryn!
      That’s a great idea. I actually have a wild grape vine growing in the cedars on the other side of the house and I never even thought of using it that way. I wonder if I can transplant it? I’ve never even heard of wild cucumber! I’ll have to search it out. Virginia Creeper would be an easy one but it gives me such a rash I stay far away from it. Thanks for your suggestions, very helpful:)

  2. Great garden, so much in a small space.

  3. What a beautiful garden! I’m not a hug fan of straight rows and neat lines either. And besides, mixing things up is great for pest control. 🙂

    • Thanks Amber,
      I really admire the beauty of a classic Potager but that’ll never be me. I watch my indoor cats hiding in the tall plants pretending they’re in the jungle and think how much less fun they would have if everything was ruler straight and clipped to perfection.

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