I will admit, planting zinnias (or any flowers for that matter) in between corn plants is not something I had considered until admiring the attractive combination in the vegetable garden at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, home of the Worcester County Horticultural Society.
Last Thursday the MNLA Summer Field Day was held at this 132 acre botanic garden in Boylston, MA and afterwards I had time to tour some of the inspirational gardens and plantings.
Tower Hill boasts a number of gorgeous gardens and intriguing plant collections including a charming Cottage Garden, the Secret Garden with its fountain and pergola, a great Lawn Garden framed with unique cultivars of trees and shrubs underplanted with perennials, groundcovers and bulb, the Systemic Garden with its Italianate design and interesting garden ornaments and the Winter Garden with its wonderful turtle fountains. There is much more to see if you find the time to visit Tower Hill and stroll through the grounds.
Being a big fan of vegetable gardening I like to see what new theme they have for their vegetable/cutting garden. This year it is ‘Cultivate Taste’. While most correctly assume that how a vegetable tastes is related to the variety or cultivar, taste and flavor also depend on growing and weather conditions, soil type and management, amount of water plants receive, the stage at which vegetables are harvested and also how they are cooked. As a general rule of thumb, the more water a plant receives, the plumper and juicier the fruit but the flavor is often diluted. More drought-like conditions typically result in a more concentrated flavor giving you more pungent onions, hotter chilies and sweeter melons. Several studies have found that when plants are grown under organic production conditions, the fruit contains less nitrates and more anti-oxidants which also makes for more flavorful selections.
Good taste is also a matter of aesthetics. While there is nothing wrong with looking at those nice, straight rows of peppers and beans, interplanting them with aromatic herbs, cheery flowers or contrasting colors adds another dimension of pleasure to the vegetable garden. Some of my favorite combinations at Tower Hill were the black cherry tomato with purple nicotiana and yellow stemmed Swiss chard combined with purple ruffled kale.
For those lacking space for an in-ground vegetable garden, think vertical! This lovely bed of lettuce was growing on one of their walls. Plantings like this could be filled with other compact plants like many herbs, other types of greens and probably the compact basket tomatoes. Whether searching for unique plants or innovative gardening ideas, check out the offerings at Tower Hill.