F Is for Flowers

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Green ice lettuce flower and visitor

The Edible Garden–Expanding the Idea:

I’ve become fascinated by the idea of the “edible garden.” The name implies that a garden is not normally edible. So that must mean that the normal garden is for looking only–or maybe for looking and smelling–but can’t usually be eaten. The name also implies that the kinds of gardens that people plant for food are not also good for looking or smelling. So the “edible garden,” then, must be a garden that looks and maybe smells really nice, AND, wow, you can eat the plants, too!

Hmm. Can you see why I might disagree with the notion that only some gardens are good for looking and smelling, and that only some are good for eating? Everything I’ve written about so far–even dirt–I regard as both beautiful and delicious. Sound crazy? Well, it all depends on your perspective and on how adventurous you are.

If you have come to enjoy gardening, chances are that you have developed a broader sense of what is beautiful in plants. To a vegetable and fruit gardener, for example, what can be more beautiful than a lush ripening crop, with deep green leaves, bright profuse buds in spring, and supple, deeply-hued fruit? After harvest, what can be more visually pleasing than the mounds of glowing, just-picked produce in a farmer’s market?

Moreover, if you have an open mind about plants that can be tasty and nutritious, and have tried a wide variety of dishes, then you’ve expanded your idea of the “edible.” In either case, you have come to appreciate a greater variety of plants and admire the diversity of ways that plants have adapted to their environments. If you once thought that only a rose or a carnation was a beautiful flower, you have come to be enchanted by the tiny yellow blooms on your tomatoes or by the thousands of tiny pastel blue-purple flowers on a lilac, which attract bees in profusion in the spring, or the tiny, tiny white flowers on the end of an oregano shoot. Not to mention the intoxicating fragrance of orange blossoms or the surprising yellow burst on the buds that come forth in September on a prickly pear.

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Orange blossoms in March amid the current crop of oranges that were ripe in December

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Yellow bloom in September on a prickly pear (nopales) fruit.

The idea of an “edible garden,” then, can mean not a special type of garden, but an attitude toward all gardens that appreciates their visual beauties AND how they can be used as food, not only by humans but by other creatures.

The Many Flowers I’ve Ignored in Our Garden 

One way I’m expanding my idea of the beautiful in plants has been to notice all their flowers. I’m still a child at this, but at least I’ve moved past the notion that only some plants in the garden are there for their visual beauty, while others are there only for their edible fruits, seeds, or leaves.  Gardening has helped me learn that edible-leaf plants like basil and arugula reach flowering stages that are themselves attractive and even edible. The zucchini that produces such prodigious green fruit first generates large, trumpet-like yellow flowers that both dazzle the eye and are well-known for their tastiness.

The photos you’ll see throughout this entry capture some of the many types of plants in our garden, all of which flower in their own way at various times of the year. Most of the pics come from plants raised by us for their food value, not for their visual appeal. But all of them add to the color of the garden, color that is pleasing to us humans and vital to the plants’ attraction of pollinators. Indeed, these are  citizens of an edible, beautiful garden.

Just click on the thumbnail photos below to see more of the flowers that beautify our (mostly) edible garden.

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