A beautiful combination for beauty and eating!
No longer do you have to separate the edible flowers or herbs from your perennial garden. In many instances, you can weave a beautiful and tasty tapestry by combining them both into your landscape. The ‘edible garden’ trend encourages nature to produce prolifically by choosing pollinator and bird-friendly plants and using organic products for your edible plants, as well as the ornamental ones…and planting them side by side.
Growing flowers for their ornamental appeal is no different than growing edible flowers. They all look beautiful and when the edible plants are harvested, they can be used fresh or dried, infused in a dessert or used raw, cooked or in a vinaigrette. However, if you are going to combine edible annuals or perennials with ornamental plants, you must grow them both organically without using herbicides or pesticides. Begin with an organic soil and sometimes, using premium organic seed sources are best option for achieving organic control and added variety.
Ten edible flowers to add to your perennial garden design:
1. Tuberous Begonia (Begonia x typerhubrida): Did you know that all tuberous begonias and wax begonias are edible? The delicate flowers have a tart, lemon-y flavor and a crisp texture. You can add the entire flower into salads or use just the petals. These dainty, multi-petalled begonias bloom in pink, red, white & bi-colors… flowering all summer in full or partial sun in an average, but well-drained soil. Keep on the moist side but not soggy.
2. Bee Balm (Monarda didyma): Bee balm is an aromatic herb in the mint family. The leaves and the tubular flowers are both edible. Bee balm tastes a bit like Earl Grey tea with its citrus-y flavor. Use it as a garnish in salads, blend into softened butter, or infuse into ice cream. This beautiful native plant looks its best in larger color groupings that will draw butterflies to its red, purple, pink and violet petals. Bee balm thrives in a rich, moist yet well-drained soil in full to partial sun.
3. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Chive plants are edible perennials in the onion family. Both of the globes of violet flowers and its grass-like foliage have a subtle, fresh onion or garlic flavor. They make good companions to most perennials or ornamental grasses. Use freshly chopped chive leaves as a tasty garnish on baked potatoes with sour cream or, sauté in butter for sauces, add to scrambled eggs or flavor American potato salad. Or, make a beautiful and tasty pink vinaigrette by adding the violet flowers to white vinegar. For best results, plant in full sun in a sandy, yet moist, well-drained soil.
4. Daylily (Hemerocallis): All varieties of the daylily are edible, including the most common orange daylily. The unopened buds and petals are the tastiest part of the daylily, although all parts are edible. If eaten raw, they have a sweet, floral flavor. If cooked, try stir-frying unopened buds or fry them in butter as delicately breaded fritters. Daylilies are some of the hardiest plants that will return every summer with their orange, yellow, red, pink, or purple flowers. Plant in full to partial sun in a well-draining soil with average to medium moisture.
5. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): The most popular of the edible lavender varieties include ‘Hidcote’ and ‘Munstead’. The best way to prepare lavender for eating is to harvest the stalks with flowers when only about one-third to one-half of the tiny florets have opened. Do not wash. Tie in bundles and hang upside down and dry in a ventilated area. The flavor is sweet with tastes of mint, citrus, and rosemary. Dried lavender flowers can be added to desserts, marinades, or used in baking for a unique taste. It can be a strong flavor, so use it sparingly. Plant lavender in full sun and in a well-draining soil with dry to medium moisture content.
6. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum spp.): Both flowers and leaves of the nasturtium plant is edible. The peppery flavor is tasty in soups, blended into butter or used as a garnish on sandwiches. Choose your favorite flower colors in red, orange, pink, yellow, cream or, bi-colors. Because it’s an annual, you’ll need to plant the chunky seeds outdoors every year at the end of May. Dig seeds into average or even below average, well-drained soil. Keep watered until plants get their start but otherwise nasturtiums are drought resistant.
7. Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeiculum): Hyssop is a great pollinator perennial with blue-purple flower spikes that attracts butterflies, bees and hummingbirds… offering another reason to make room for this plant in your garden. The flowers taste like lemons, mint, and licorice. This flavor complements salads, iced drinks, desserts, and ice cream. Plant in full or partial sun in an average soil that drains well.
8. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita): German chamomile is the sweetest among chamomiles and is preferred as an culinary option because of its earthy and floral, apple-like flavor. It's best used as an infusion in teas, cocktails, and desserts or added to oatmeal. Chamomile plants thrive with full sun in an average, well-drained soil with dry to medium moisture.
9. Chrysanthemum (Glebionis coronaria): For edible flowers, it’s best to grow garland mums from seed since you can't be sure if potted mums are treated with chemicals. The yellow flowers of this variety have a tangy and herbal flavor yet slightly bitter. Whether you use these petals fresh or dried, they are a beautiful and tasty garnish in salads or soups. Mums thrive in full sun when planted in an average, well-drained soil.
10. Scented-leaved Geranium (Pelargonium spp.): Both of the leaves and flowers of this annual (in Zones 10-11) are fragrant and edible. Foliage with apple, ginger, lemon, lime, nutmeg, or peppermint scents are perfect for garnishing salads, infusing vinegar or using in candy making, but keep away from the ‘Citronella’ geranium that is used to keep mosquitos away. Simply by rubbing the small leaves with your fingertips, the essential oils will be activated. Plant in full to partial sun in a rich, well-draining soil.
More edible flowers:
- citrus blossoms