Historically there were two types of productive garden, the walled garden filled with exotic fruit, fresh vegetables and flowers and the allotment or cottage garden. During the Renaissance in France, ornamental produce was grown in parterres, which were known as ‘potagers’. Today a potager style garden is one, which grows both crops and flowers in an attractive productive garden style. Sustainable gardens centre on the use of recycled materials and renewable resources, with biodiversity and conservation as key themes within an organic gardening approach.
I recently had the pleasure of staying for a couple of days with my aunt Mairead. She has a small potager style garden. It is just what you would NOT expect to find, hidden away in the heart of Clontarf. It is really amazing to see all that can be grown in a small space. Mairead has built raised beds of various sizes around the perimeter of the garden. Close to the kitchen door you will find pots and post of salads and herbs, tomatoe plants, heavy with fruit. A beautiful apple tree is central to the garden and is home to a number of hanging baskets overflowing with the tastiest strawberries. Behind this is a backdrop of sweet pea and roses, so her house can be filled with heavenly scented perfumes. The beds continue around with peas and French beans, purple sprouting broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes and rhubarb. In between are berried shrubs to feed the birds in winter, a patch of wild flowers, and gorgeous pink poppies are dotted in and out between everything….a great source of poppy seeds for the winter. I’m sure I have left out loads, but it is a real testament of how beautiful and bountiful a small garden can be. And there is plenty for the birds, bees and butterflies too!