by Director of Gardens Perry Mathewes
The Vegetable Garden
The garden has been abuzz this past year with all sorts of improvement projects. We have installed a new spring garden and event lawn, we completely replanted the perennial garden, and the expansion and improvements in the rose garden are almost done. While all these large projects make a lot of noise and lots of people are buzzing around getting things done, there are other, smaller improvements being made in the garden all the time that don’t get the same attention. The Vegetable Garden is a perfect example.
A quick walk through the Vegetable Garden and anyone can see that this is not an ordinary plot for tomatoes and beans. Julian Glass and Lee Taylor wanted a garden that was ornamental as was functional, so the layout of the planting beds is in unusual shapes (triangles, arcs, diamonds, elongated hexagons and clipped squares). This does not lend itself to a traditional style of row planting, but it gives us the freedom to experiment with our planting designs and selections. Bryan Shepherd, our garden manager, oversees the Vegetable Garden and this year he has done a great job developing a display to keep up with all the showy garden improvements elsewhere.
Vegetable Garden Vertical
We are experimenting with adding several vertical elements to the garden. When you walk into the Vegetable Garden, one of the first things you notice is a large obelisk trellis. Growing tentatively up onto the frame are three hops plants. As the summer progresses, their tendrils will snake their way up towards the very top to create a green tower at the center of the garden. Additional green towers are sprouting in the corners around the hops. These are small (right now) banana plants that will grow throughout the summer. Sadly, the growing season is too short to get edible fruit, but the bold foliage makes a great statement.
Vegetable Garden Tomato Trellis
We are also trying out some additional veggie garden structures. In the elongated hexagon beds are lots of tomato plants. Instead of using numerous wire cages, Bryan and crew built large bamboo trellises (we found a few spare pieces just east of the Chinese Garden), then turned them on their side so they create a flat top for the tomatoes to grow through and flop over onto the supporting bamboo. This will keep the more than dozen different heirloom tomatoes well off the ground and hopefully easy to harvest. Bryan also added some slanted trellises for the cucumbers. [Don't miss a FREE Garden Walkabout tour with Perry this Wednesday! Click HERE.]
Vegetable garden contrast
Vegetable Garden Tomatillo
I am most excited with the many different plants we are trying this year and the interesting combinations Bryan has planted. We have the usual suspects: squash, cucumber, tomato, peas, carrots, peppers, beans, etc. However, Bryan has done a good job of adding some unusual plants that always get comments or questions such as “what is that?” The gothic leaves of artichokes are set off nicely by the purple foliage of amaranth (a grain crop). Okra and cotton always draw comments. The tomatillos are starting to put out their fruit. Before too long, someone is going to be enjoying a nice salsa. Have you ever seen a peanut in flower? If not head on over to the garden now before they extend their flower stalks to the ground and disappear so the peanut may grow.
Vegetable Garden Peanut
Vegetable Garden Herb Walk
One nice touch this year is the addition of more herbs in the Vegetable Garden. We do have a small herb garden elsewhere that labors under a little too much shade, so Chantal Ludder, our horticulturalist and herb gardener, has commandeered some of the smaller, sunnier beds along the central walk and added nasturtiums, borage, mints, and marigolds (a good companion plant for tomatoes). Chantal has also coordinated efforts with a local food bank so all these fabulous vegetables and herbs not only look good, they will feed some folks who really will appreciate them.
Vegetable Garden Borage and Marigold
So please come and ooh and ahh at the fabulous new gardens we have installed, but be sure to take some time to see a greatly improved Vegetable Garden as well. I hope you dig it as much as I do.
Join Perry on the next fun Garden Walkabout this Wednesday, July 1, 10–11 a.m. The event and garden admission is FREE to all. Glen Burnie House & Gardens are open 10 a.m.–8 p.m. Admission to the Museum galleries is also FREE. Galleries are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays are FREE to all thanks to sponsor Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc. [Click HERE for more info.]
Photos by Director of Gardens Perry Mathewes.