Planning a kitchen garden? Traditionally, these gardens were separate from formal parts of a house’s outdoor space and often in a walled garden to protect the produce from harsh weather and scavengers. Potagers, or ornamental kitchen gardens, were popularised during the French Renaissance, with edible and non-edible flowers planted alongside vegetables, and the gardens laid out in a pleasing and practical way.
Today, they're just as popular – if on a smaller scale. So, whether your garden is large and your plans ambitious, or yours will be a container garden in a small outdoor space, be inspired by these seven kitchen gardens, all of which show how growing your own fruit and vegetables can be incorporated into any garden design scheme.
1. An old vicarage with a kitchen garden
Set within a three-and-a-half-acre country plot, this garden is filled with a glorious array of colours, scents and flavours in late summer, which would inspire anyone to grab their trowel and start growing their own food with enthusiasm.
Within the garden, owner Sandra Blaza operates a system of crop rotation, so that each main group of vegetables – brassica, potatoes, onions, root vegetables, and legumes – is grown in a different spot each year. An interesting feature of the garden is the inclusion of half-standard gooseberry and currant bushes in the corners of these vegetable beds. This unusual way of growing and training soft fruit adds height and structure, and shows off the fruit to great effect.
2. Traditional cottage garden in Hampshire
Among the relaxed planting of this traditional cottage garden in Hampshire, there is a beautiful terraced kitchen garden. Sweet peas, alstroemeria and foxtail lilies add an injection of colour to the area and thrive alongside an old clump of delphiniums. In the lower beds, the home owner Penny grows soft fruit, blackberries and raspberries, while broccoli, onions, parsnips, beans, potatoes and lettuces make up the vegetable beds.
If you’d love to transform your our outdoor space into a cottage garden, take a look at our expert advice on how to create a traditional cottage garden.
3. Floral family garden
While this is mainly a family garden, owner Joanne Winn has developed a productive kitchen garden that is her private area to withdraw to.
It is a sunny patch, with raised beds containing vegetables and soft fruit, and there is a small greenhouse. This is Joanne’s favourite spot, where she’s most likely to be found, even in the depths of winter. ‘It’s my haven, I suppose. I love its calm serenity and feeling of enclosure,’ she says.
Herbs, potatoes, onions and salad leaves thrive in the secluded little patch, whilst a beautiful calendula plant acts as a companion, bringing in insects and wildlife to keep the kitchen garden producing.
4. A bluebell wood with a productive garden
The owner of this garden, Barbara Jeremiah, is the Liveryman for the Worshipful Company of Gardeners, so it is no surprise that her kitchen garden is outstanding. A raised fruit bed and vegetable plot offer a variety of produce, and are backed by espaliered ‘Charles Ross’ and russet apple trees.
‘Part of this garden is set out in a chequerboard design using old square bricks that were made here hundreds of years ago,’ says Barbara. ‘These are filled with herbs such as parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, chives, fennel, lovage, chervil, mint and curry plants. I put mint, parsley and tulips in pots, as it’s easier to look after them, and the tomatoes in a small greenhouse.’
5. Bountiful artist's garden
In late summer, artist Lizzie Smith’s garden is at its zenith, with a cornucopia of vegetables in raised beds ready for harvest, billowing flowers to cut and the herbaceous beds filled out with golden Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ and Cynara cardunculus, or cardoons.
‘Our wish was to develop a productive, beautiful and creative garden for our family, friends and wildlife to enjoy being in and eating from. We have six children between us, so the garden is a great source of fresh vegetables and flowers, with lovely places to be in,’ says Lizzie.
The variety of produce is impressive, from herbs such as mint, rosemary, thyme and parsley at the front door, to tactile Cavolo Nero mixed with ornamental Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ kept in check in the woven-edged beds, or ripening Victoria plums heavy on the bough. There is something edible in nearly every corner of the garden.
The garden has two main areas for vegetables, with large rectangular beds, along with the more tender offerings of chillies and aubergines in the polytunnel. ‘Tomatoes are our favourite vegetable and we grow ‘Black Krim’, ‘Marmande’, ‘San Marzano’ and ‘Costoluto Fiorentino’.’
6. A kitchen garden with contemporary touches
The kitchen aspect of this garden isn’t the most obvious part. In fact it is used to punctuate the relaxed and colourful planting of the traditional cottage scheme. Neat rows of salad and root vegetables sit between repeated box-balls and have all been hand grown by home owner Heather Scott from seed.
The tiny greenhouse is home to Heather’s young potted plants and vegetables, before they can graduate into the main garden, to complement the beds.
7. Family garden in the Essex countryside
Having created a beautiful garden for her family, Victoria Inglis turned her attention to creating a small potager outside their potting shed, which is enclosed in woven hazel fences. ‘My husband and three children are quite “foodie”, so we enjoy cooking at home with our own produce. Raised beds made from wooden planks are filled with salad leaves, rhubarb, beans and root vegetables,’ says Victoria.
To finish off the kitchen garden, Victoria extended the small eating area on the south-easterly corner of the potting shed, and built a pergola, creating the perfect outdoor dining area to complement the productive kitchen garden.