Flowering vegetables

The kitchen garden is back, and with it the complete experience of sowing, growing and eating. Yet vegetables can be so much more than just food; they can improve ecology, encourage birds and bees, offer colour and seeds. You could even take it one step further and bring flowers from the vegetable plot inside. 


All vegetables produce flowers, even though most people with a vegetable garden have never seen them. When we look at vegetables as flowering plants, there are roughly two types. Most vegetables produce flowers in order to form an edible product. Peas, beans and pumpkins are examples. So when you cut these flowers, you don’t get the food.

The second group will only produce flowers if you leave them alone. So if you leave the last of your radishes, a few side shoots of your broccoli or a few leeks in your garden, you will get a second ‘crop’ in their flowering stage.
Even though all vegetables produce flowers, not all of them are suitable for cutting. Here are some recommendations, set out in four gorgeous vegetable flower bouquets by expert Peter Bauwens.


Bouquet 1: Delicate shades

1  Asparagus: A useful basic green.
Height 2m  Spread 50cm Season July-November

2 Garlic chives: Pure white flowers and a perfect perennial.
Height 50cm Spread 30cm Season July-October

3 Lemon verbena: Easily grown in a pot.
Height 1m Spread 50cm Season October

4 Cabbage: Any type will work.
Height 1.5m Spread 75cm Season April-November

5  Fennel: A bouquet on its own.
Height 1.2m Spread 75cm Season August-November

6 Tree spinach: Huge plant, will reseed.
Height 3m Spread 50cm Season August-November


7 Chinese broccoli (kai-lan): White edible flowers.
Height 1.25m Spread 20cm Season Spring-autumn from several sowings.

8 Oysterleaf: Hardy perennial.
Height 25cm Spread 65cm Season April and September



Bouquet 2: Contrasting colours

1  Carrot: Delightful lace umbels for months.
Height 1m Spread 40cm Season July-November

2 Garlic chives: Strong sturdy stems and flowers that will last for ten days.
Height 50cm Spread 30cm Season July-October

3 Orach: Very useful in bouquets.
Height 1.5m Spread 30cm Season September-October

4 Chinese broccoli (Kai-lan): Fastest growing broccoli with white flowers and lots of side shoots.
Height 1.25m Spread 20cm Season Spring-autumn from several sowings

5 Red basil: Dark wine colour and a perfect scent.
Height 50cm Spread 50cm Season August-October

6 Leek: Very useful, long-lasting flowers.
Height 1.5m Spread 25cm Season August-September


Bouquet 3: Striking shapes

Red orach: Colourful shades of dark red to green in seeds and leaves. 
Height 1.5m Spread 30cm Season September-October

2 Globe artichoke: The most spectacular of all flowering vegetables.
Height 1.5m Spread 75cm Season July and October

3 Leek: Strong stems and perfect cut flowers in purple and white.
Height 1.5m Spread 15cm Season August-September

4 Runner bean ‘Sunset’: Runner beans flower in white, red, bicolour and this nice pale peach.
Height 3m Spread 15cm Season August-October

5 Chinese broccoli (kai-lan): Large white broccoli flowers for months.
Height 1.25m Spread 20cm Season Spring-autumn from several sowings.

6 Orach: Colourful shades of pale green in seeds and leaves.
Height 1.5m Spread 30cm Season September-October


Bouquet 4: Fresh tones

1 Dill: Fragile annual that runs to seed and flowers all too easily.
Height 1m Spread 30cm Season July-October

2 Cabbage: Goes on producing edible and sweet scented flowers for months.
Height 1.5cm Spread 75cm Season April-November

Orach: Pure green in seeds and leaves.
Height 1.5m Spread 25cm Season August-September

4 Leek: Useful and striking in any bouquet.
Height 1.5m Spread 25cm Season August-September

5 Quinoa: Comes in bright reds, oranges and purples. Flowers for more than a month.
Height 2m Spread 30cm Season August-September



6 Radish: Masses of small edible flowers in white, cream, pink and purple.
Height 150cm Spread 30cm Season May-July.


Taken from a feature appearing in the January 2013 issue (no. 193)




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