Jessica Walliser
January 5, 2012

Swiss chard as ornamental planted in concrete planter at Busch Gardens
Photo by Jessica Walliser
It thrilled me to see Swiss chard planted as an ornamental at Busch Gardens.

I hope you and those you love had a wonderful holiday season and that 2012 brings you much success—in the garden and in life. We had a great Christmas, followed by a trip to Florida for a few days of sunshine. While we were there, we spent a day at Busch Gardens in Tampa. In addition to watching my son enjoy the rides, I spent a good bit of time checking out all the plants.

While all the gardens were beautiful (and exceedingly well-maintained!), the most striking plantings we saw were those involving edibles. Using edible plants as ornamentals is a huge trend now, and I completely understand why. The leaf textures and foliage colors are just amazing, both on their own and in combination with flowering annuals and perennials. I especially like them paired with tropical plants.

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Edible and non-edible ornamentals planted side by side
Photo by Jessica Walliser
Edible ornamentals, like kale and collards, were planted in rows along non-edibles.

Near the entrance to the park, two concrete planter boxes that stood 4 feet tall and measured 8 feet long and 3 feet wide. They could have been filled with geraniums or begonias or petunias, but instead they were filled with the brilliantly colored stems of Bright Lights Swiss chard. The plants were huge and lush and simply lovely. They caught my attention right away. It’s a shame they don’t serve the chard for lunch in any of the restaurants (yes, I did check the menus!), but I suppose the planting wouldn’t have had as much of an impact if half of the stems were gone.

Many of the ground-level beds also contained edibles partnered with annuals. Kalecollard greens and lettuce partnered with wax begonias and dusty miller. It was nice to see something different in such a public place. I only hope other people were paying as careful attention as I was. 

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