Growing Up!

It’s the time of year for planning and dreaming, rather than working in the garden.  As I sketch and mentally “plant,” trying to visualize how the beds will look next season, the need for some vertical interest is apparent.  As it is now, the potager is a series of flat squares and rectangles, more like a carpet planting than I’d like.  And, amazingly, even on paper, I’ve already run out of space!  One solution: growing up.

Vertical growing is not a new idea, (think Hanging Gardens of Babylon) but it is one that has been on an upward trend for the past few years as city and suburban lots grow smaller and homeowners want more area for entertaining or larger garages or whatever.  I knew from the beginning that my potager would have some kind of arches or trellising for vertical growing.  Not only will they provide height visually and be space-saving, but if placed properly they will also provide some much-needed shade for growing mid-season lettuces and other crops during our hot, hot Indiana summers.

My first list for plants to grow on a trellis contained many of the most common climbers:  pole beans, scarlet runner beans, hyacinth beans, gourds, and morning glories.  I’ve mulled over that list for several days now, and have made several revisions.  First to go were the morning glories.  Although I love their color and reliability, they are notorious self-seeders.  Next were gourds.  There are some edible gourds, but my family doesn’t eat them and while I love their “fairy flowers,” I think I’d like something more palatable.


Scarlet runner beans are edible and beautiful, and I found this lovely pale peach-flowered variety called “Sunset.”  I hope they are as pretty as the seed packet.   Runner Beans are also good for pollinators and easy to grow.  I’m still debating about hyacinth beans.  They are also edible, in fact Thomas Jefferson brought them over to Monticello in hopes that they would be a major food crop.  Their burgundy leaves and purple flowers are lovely and both the flowers and purple-podded beans are nutritious, if not exactly delectable.  Maybe I just need to find better recipes to use them.  Any suggestions?  The burgundy foliage will also echo many of the low-growing beets, red cabbages, and  red mustards to help unify the design.  And their gorgeous color will repeat the beautiful “Amethyst” basil that must be a part of my new garden, as it was one of my favorites in the old.  So, probably the hyacinth beans will stay.

Regular pole beans stay on the list.  There are two that I want to try.  One is the heirloom French pole bean “Fortex” that both Pinetree Seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds applaud for being dependable with an extended harvest season, producing extra slender, dark green 7″ “fillet” beans when young, but even tasty and stringless when allowed to reach 11″.  That’s a long bean!  Harvest begins only 60 days after seeding.  Since a potager is a French-inspired vegetable/herb/flower garden, it seems not only appropriate but necessary to include a few French varieties throughout the garden.

The second pole bean is “Speckled Calico Pole Lima.”  Normal lima beans are big space grabbers for the small harvest obtained, and we don’t eat them often, but my kids love limas when they visit.  I hope they like this buttery-flavored red and white variety as well.  It is said they have excellent flavor when frozen, which is good since we prefer limas frozen to canned.

I’m still working on my “Grow Up List,” which must include things we will actually eat and enjoy, as well as being reasonably attractive.  I’m leaning toward cukes and single-serving melons, and possibly some small pumpkins, or maybe winter squash.  There’s no rush in deciding since there’s a long winter ahead and still more seed catalogs to come, and this mental debate is all part of the fun of gardening.  I’m open to suggestions.  What are your favorite crops for growing up?


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
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7 Responses to Growing Up!

  1. You can’t beat a bit of garden planning on a dull December day! Good luck with your vertical gardening next year


    • carolee says:

      We’ve had days of rain and now dropping into the teens, so there’s nothing to do but dream! But, picturing next year’s garden is always one of the best parts. Hope all your plans are moving along.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. simoneharch says:

    I’ve got a great book written by Jamie Durie, an Australian guy, and he has some great ideas on vertical gardening. I’ve never tried it, but would love to. Good luck, look forward to seeing your results!!! Simone


  3. Karen B says:

    I can’t wait to see photos of your potager. Mine is small, but I do go upwards with runner beans on the back stone wall and Sweet Peas growing up a rusty metal obelisk. the trouble here is the wind as I am on Dartmoor and totally exposed. I love all the low growing edging plants, all the violas, all the baby beets and carrots and the alpine strawberries. We are so lucky, aren’t we? To love what we do so much…all the seed packets, the germinating, the pricking out… 😃


    • carolee says:

      I’ll be posting lots of photos. My potager is out in the open, too. The wind comes sweeping across miles & miles of open fields and the temperatures sometimes drop to 25 degrees below zero F. I’m trying sweet peas on the outside of the section of fence between the Lady Cottage and greenhouse. We’ll see how they do. At least the deer shouldn’t bother them since they are poisonous. My alpine strawberry seedlings are doing well in the basement, but I had to seed more violas because germination was really poor on the first batch. Keeps it interesting though!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Karen B says:

        Minus 25??!! Oh my goodness. That is a challenge. I have gone for Chiltern Seeds Historic Florist Violas this year. I germinated them in the Autumn and am tryingb to nurse them through the winter here, along with many other hardy annuals. Our locations are quite similar. We obviously dont like things too easy 🙂


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