Turn my veggie garden into flowers?
January 1, 2014 4:10 PM   Subscribe

I put together a nice, deep raised garden box last summer and planted a bunch of vegetables. Most of them went bad and I don't want to do that this year. Rather than try to work a veggie garden into my life of full-time work and chasing after a 3-year-old, I'd like to plant some flowers and herbs that I can use to make bouquets to bring in the house all year long....

The space is 4x8 and 2' deep. There is a shallow "kid's garden" on one end that is 2x4. It gets about 4-6 hours of sunlight, starting mid-morning to afternoon. No western sun. In my head, I'm thinking sort of "English Garden" with a bunch of silly flowers and herbs that are nice to cut and put into a goofy kind of bouquet.

I'm also looking for flowers/herbs that are fun for kids to look at, smell, play with. Basically, I want something growing there that I can rip out when it's dead, cut out when it's pretty and let grow fairly higgledy piggledy and enjoy looking at from my kitchen window. I don't want to feel guilty about the gorgeous radicchio that I let go to waste or the very cool cheddar cauliflower that was beset by worms before it was big enough to eat.

I think it would be fun to have an unusual herb that I could give to people as a gift but, again, I don't want to feel guilty about not *using* something.

Right now the garden bed has deep mushroom compost just used for one season.

Any suggestions?
posted by amanda to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I love pineapple mint! I grew it in a window box outside once and it was mega hardy and the smell was so cheerful.
posted by foxfirefey at 4:21 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lemon balm! Hardy, cheerful, good in tea and cooking alike. Once you've had it a season, you'll have more than you could ever use and it brings all the butterflies to the yard!

Really, any mint relative will fit the bill here, though you might want to check possible cross pollination possibilities or risk very strange combinations of flavors when the relatives intermingle.
posted by theweasel at 4:54 PM on January 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

A word of warning: mint spreads like wild fire! Seriously. If you plant mint in the same bed with your other plants, next year you will have an entire 4x8 plot of mint weed. It's REALLY hard to get rid of, so it's best to plant mint in it's own container.

Mrs. Burns Lemon basil is an edible, flowering basil with a wonderful lemony-fruit-loopy smell. We used to use it as filler in the bouquets we made at the farm I apprenticed on, and it made them smell fantastic!
I always love the old standard genovese basil as well. This is great to have on hand if you like to cook italian food, the flavor is very concentrated and bees love it, so they will attract pollinators to your flowers. Other awesome basil varieties are Cinnamon basil, Thai basil, and Amethyst.

Tithonia, or mexican sunflower, is one of my favorites. Butterflies and Hummingbirds absolutely love this plant! It flowers like crazy, and you can save the seed pods. but one plant will take up a lot of room (one i grew was about 6 ft tall by 3ft), so it might be best planted outside of the raised bed but near it.

Zinnias are great to have in the garden. They flower prolifically, are easy to grow and you can find varieties in lots of different crazy colors. You do need to keep on top of dead-heading in order to keep them at maximum flower production. though. Also they take up a good amount of space, so they might be a little big for your 4x8 space, unless you only plant a few.
I grew some Italian white sunflowers last spring and absolutely loved them for cutting, but they also take up some space.

Also, chamomile! - doesn't take up a lot of space, you can make your own tea out of it! and it looks nice.

Other, smaller, fun flowers and herbs that come to mind:


nasturtium - beautiful flowers and foliage, and edible. Nice peppery arugula flavor, good for salads.


is pretty in arrangements and looks exactly the same once it is dried.

There are some ornamental varieties of peppers that are lovely used in flower arrangements. I don't have any experience growing these but I'm guessing they are probably hot so I don't know if they're kid-eye-friendly.

Some other interesting looking, low maintenance and/or flowering herbs are fennel, thyme, and lavender.

Hope this helps. Have fun out there!!!
posted by lettuce dance at 5:15 PM on January 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lavender is lovely, and grows easily in Portland; as does rosemary. I also have sage which keeps coming back year after year, and surprisingly is very beautiful in spring when it flowers.
posted by hydra77 at 5:46 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

That's not a lot of sun so I would look at things that do well with part sun like nasturtium and petunias.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:01 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

In addition to the many excellent suggestions above I think rosemary is quite beautiful and it contrasts nicely with the leafy herbs. There are many different colours of oreganos. Butterflies and bees love it and while it spreads easily it is also easy to rip out and keep under control. Garlic chives have lovely flowers. Also, if you have staying power, asparagus. If you let it grow the ferns are gorgeous at the back of a bed. Takes three years from planting the crowns to harvest though, if you do plan to eat it. But it'll be around for 20+ years after that.
posted by Cuke at 8:20 PM on January 1, 2014

I’d like to second rosemary and lavender (get many kinds!), they are perfect for Portland. Also there are ornamental oreganos (such as Origanum laevigatum) that grow tall, and still smell wonderful, and then thyme that can go near the front and droop over. Some rose geraniums are also pretty hardy for Portland winters. The Portland Yard, Garden, and Patio Show will be from February 28 to March 3 (which is super early, but that means it’s also a lovely time to get ideas without having to commit to anything).
posted by thebestsophist at 10:51 PM on January 1, 2014

Ugh, lemon balm had the worst kind of lemon furniture polish smell but to each his own.

I like growing sweet peas. They're pretty easy, though they'll need some kind of thin trellis to grab onto and grow up. If you keep the flowers picked you'll have tons of blooms for quite a while in Portland. I get them from June to September in Seattle. Get fragrant and heat tolerant varieties if possible. Renee's has a good selection. "April in Paris" (more like June or July in Portland) is a good one and is super-fragrant. Get some seeds and some starts from a local nursery. Plant them together and you'll extend your bloom season.

Dianthus are also nice, and I've had good luck with them. Sweet William is a popular one you can find at a nursery and will like your partial shade bed.
posted by sevenless at 11:20 PM on January 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all - I think some of these are a bit too big for the raised bed. I have lavender and rosemary in the front yard, planted in the ground and they're both pretty large. I like the ideas of the sweet pea, the chamomile, flowering sage and smaller sunflowers.
posted by amanda at 5:44 PM on January 2, 2014

« Older Not getting older, getting better   |   Whipple Procedure Advice Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.