Feeling fancy and creating a potager garden

Maybe it’s because I watched a movie set in Paris, maybe it’s because I ate French fries for lunch on Friday-whatever the reason I’m feeling the love for all things French.

So why not a French-inspired vegetable garden? A potager garden.

I have always referred to my raised beds and herb garden as a kitchen garden, close to the house, where it is easy to dash out and clip chives or grab tomatoes while cooking. But today, in the spirit of my Parisian thoughts, it’s a small potager.

My little garden follows the basic principles of its French-inspired cousin. It is vegetable-based and sprinkled with perennial and annual flowers. It even has pea gravel ground cover between the beds and containers. This is only the beginning of what a potager can be.

The idea behind a potager garden is for it to be functional yet visually appealing. Of course, it is pretty – it’s French.

The layout can be raised beds, traditional rows, containers, or some mixture of all these. It really depends on your space. A series of small plots connected with pathways and focal points are common. The paths can be covered with mulch, stepping-stones, bricks, or pea gravel.

These gardens are meant to be wandered through. When laying out the pathways, keep in mind they will also be used to deliver soil, fertilizer, and other needed supplies to the plants. If they are accessible to a wheelbarrow, it will decrease your need to carry materials to the beds.  

Often small shrubs, rocks, or fragrant perennials create a border the individual segments of garden. Within these sections, there may be an obelisk, trellis, or tall plantings such as corn or tomato cages to give height to the design.

Having permanent plantings such as small fruit trees, bushes, or a stone structure will create interest year-round. These will also serve as points to draw your eye through the garden.

Creating a rhythm to the planting will help your eye travel through the potager. You do this when decorating your home and your flower garden; now try it with the vegetable garden. Carry the color or color pallet throughout the garden.

It can be planting the same hue such as lavender, the silver leaves of sage, and the purple veins of kale and cabbage in a different spot so the color flows through the garden. If matching is not your thing, try planting contrasting colors.

This garden is meant to be functional, but adding texture and color will make it a delight to the senses.

By mixing perennials, annuals, and herbs into the garden you are creating a garden for pollinators. Inviting the bees and butterflies into the garden is beneficial to our garden and the environment.

Space in your potage is a commodity – use it wisely. Keep in mind succession planting and using all available space. Don’t be afraid to mix herbs with vegetables. Plant them where you have bare ground.

I mix containers with my raised beds. This gives me the added interest of the containers and another way to grow different vegetables and herbs.

In my small kitchen garden or potager, the focal point is a pretty iron and ceramic table that has (so far) withstood the weather for years. The table elevates containers and sits below a grapevine wreath.

The wreath gathers leaves in the fall, snow rests upon it in the winter, and birds flutter around it in the spring. That simple wreath creates year-round interest in the kitchen garden.

Whether you feel fancy or just practical, having a beautiful vegetable and herb garden near our kitchen will make adding fresh ingredients to your cooking effortless. Who knows, by calling it a potager, you may find yourself cooking like Julia Child and watching French movies.