The Role of Flowers in the Garden

My ten year old granddaughter complained, “Grandma, all you grow are vegetables.” I guess all the wildflowers in the field don’t count. Yes, in the past I’ve grown little else but vegetables. I figured it was an either or with my time and yard constraints. But I do know something about flowers. I tended my retired neighbor’s flower gardens for years. She got a bang out of how I could never remember the proper names for the flowers, or so I told her. The truth is, I felt they deserved something more personal. So I renamed them all – The Can Can Girls, The Woe Be Gones, you get the idea. It made me smile and a happy gardener creates happy plants. So in a sense, I had a flower garden.

But we’ve moved and our grand daughters last summer complained where was our flower garden? I was going to give them a small one this summer in the front flower bed but realized that wouldn’t work. The bed is a favorite of the chickens and deer. It’s being re-designed with large STAY OUT features in mind.


As you know, I’ve been intently studying permaculture. I realized, I don’t want flowers – I NEED flowers. They form part of the synergy of a vegetable garden, an orchard, and berry whatever you call them, where the whole creates something greater than the individual components. Permaculture is a complex companion planting on a deep level. You are looking at root depths so they don’t compete for nutrients. Keeping the soil protected against the weather with blanketed cover. Placement has in mind nutrient sharing with heavy nitrogen feeders with nitrogen fixing plants or rotation before or after. The goal is to design a community of plants that placed together enhance each others capabilities and include protection.

This year I am concentrating on developing the south garden. It is for perennials, berry bushes, fruit trees and in that community will be flowers.  Which will offer the following:

  • Ground cover to keep the soil from washing.
  • Accumilators which draw up micronutrients and store them in their leaves. The foliage is then placed where it can decompose and feed other plants.
  • Others are pollinators and attract bees which go on to pollinate the rest of the crops nearby.
  • Then there are Beneficial insect plants that attract certain kinds of destructive insects to draw them away from others. Or they repel insects.
  • Aromatic plants make it hard for pest to smell their prey.
  • Plants with differing root depth help hold or break up the soil.
  • And last but not least FOOD.


Please excuse my tattered appearance, a hail storm came to visit.

If what they can do for others wasn’t enough incentive, I discovered that many of these plants have edible blossoms. Some add flavor or enhance a dish with color. Others are medicinal and nutrient rich. Already I’m eating Nasturtiums which have a peppery taste at the base of their flowers. Love these! Borage blossoms and leaves hint of cucumber, are medicinal, and reseed themselves year after year. The bright orange Calundela flowers don’t taste like much of anything but make a dish more alluring and yes, are medicinal. There will be Bee Balm and Johnny Jump Ups – love that name. I’ve transplanted Echinacea but don’t think they’ll make it, so I’ll seed some next summer. Chamomile will return and with my Black-eye Susan and daisies, I think that will be enough for now as long as I put in some sunflowers. I LOVE sunflowers.

I’ve got some studying to do. I need to know each flower’s root depth, the nutrient requirements and things they can share, the medicinal and edible options, companion planting suggestions, pH and soil requirements. The choices yes, were based upon some knowledge but I need to dig deep if less work is my goal. I don’t want to have to fertilize much, weed much, water much, and definitely not till.

Include fruit trees, berry bushes, and berry ground covers which all have flowers of their own and yes, this will be a flower garden just not the traditional one. It is to delight the eye as well as the taste buds.


This summer, I’ve added more fruit trees, bushes, and flowers which will come into greater fruition next spring. I’ve already made inquiries to order more fruit bushes, different strawberry plants, and yes, more flower seeds. This south garden will be once more my focus because perennial gardens take seasons to develop. It isn’t like the vegetable garden which is done all in one summer if you live in Wyoming. My cherry garden strip by the east entrance needs ground cover and right now is under a heavy mulch but I expect more than a taste like we’ve had in the past but a real harvest of sour cherries and Nankin cherries. My asparagus we will get to taste for the first time, my Honeyberries I just learned have a tendency to freeze each spring so I’ve got plans now to prevent that. I want a taste that was frozen away from us this spring. These gardens don’t usually come cheap especially when so few garden about us and no one has starts to offer.

The north garden is being knocked down and the few perennials moved or tore out. Planning in earnest will begin this winter after I’ve completed the south garden’s layout. Just a section at a time will be worked. This is my grains and annuals garden for the large part though the horticulturist at the local nursery told me a peach tree would probably do well there in the deep winter snow. We are going to discuss this weekend changing the boundaries to include a small perennial section of trees as the elderberries need moved.

I never dreamed gardens had so much complexity involved in them and I’ve been gardening for over 45 years just never like this. It was my grandmother’s style of production. As I look around me and see the few neighbors who garden, they’ve either given up or moved them after a few years as they fail. I’m after something that builds, nourishes and yes, for the most part, stays put.

Next summer, we will indeed pick a few bouquets to please the girls — and eat some of them too. There is something much more fulfilling when a garden delights all your senses. Don’t you love the smell of mint when you walk on it?

9 thoughts on “The Role of Flowers in the Garden

  1. You can eat rose and marigold petals 😀 you can eat dahlia tubers and Jerusalem artichokes have a sunflower like flower. Sunflowers give you sunflower seeds. Globe artichokes are beautiful if you let them flower. Lots of herbs have good flowers for insects like fennel, rosemary, feaverfew, oregano, Margo rum, thyme and chamomile.

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      1. Good to know. We are on the edge of where comfrey is suppose to grow. We shall see how well it does next year. Not too worried about spreading but good to know the 14 version is available if it does become a problem. Very few things spread here between our climate and our soil. Just getting things to grow is the challenge.

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    1. Rose petals and chamomile was the only flowers I’d eaten until this year. This is a whole new adventure. Looks like fever few will have to wait for a greenhouse. The list of what we can grow is quite small. I’m sorting through to find just a few herbs and medicinal plants that will survive without too much fuss. Love where we live but gardening is a challenge.

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  2. D > I love the smell of dried mint coming out of the dehydrator : we’re building up our stores of dried herbs for culinary use, and for herbal tissanes. Of course we use it fresh when we can, but for most of the year it’s there for us in a jar, a breath of summer in the depths of winter! The same’s true of lemon verbena, sage and thyme (though those not as tissanes!), and so on.


    1. I did without them, except for two, for many years but now I see where certain flower plants can help me fertilize the soil, others attract pollinators which is needed here, and others repel destructive bugs. I have a small list of flowers I’m going to add in the next couple years. All but one is edible and I’m growing it just because I want to.

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