Diversity in a Mix Up Garden

by Linda Wiggen Kraft

A mix up garden (my own term) is by its very nature a diverse garden. A mix up garden is different from what the modern western world has been used to. It is a garden that mixes up parts that have always been separate and brings the diversity of edibles, medicinals and beautiful plants into one space.

Gardens have been areas of the landscape that are separate from the lawn, sort of quarantined off in various parts of the property. Here’s the flower garden, here’s the rose garden, here’s the vegetable garden, here’s the herb garden and on and on. In most cases these gardens have been primarily ornamental. The idea of an ornamental garden only places emphasis on looking good. Throughout most of history plants have been grown for food, medicine and lastly for beauty.

Fortunately the equation is shifting away from strictly ornamentals to more food and medicine for body, mind and soul. The diversity of what and why we plant gardens is increasing. The diversity of what and where we plant is changing. The diversity of knowledge about plants and how they can be ornamental, edible and medicinal is also increasing.

Gardens don’t have to be separate areas for one purpose. Vegetables can be planted in the front yard in amongst the roses. Roses can be grown for their edible petals and their beauty. The colors of rainbow chard are as bright and beautiful as the colors of bright foliage like coleus, and taste much better. Trellises, mail boxes and arbors can grow beans that are more interesting than short blooming clematis and less thorny than climbing roses. Shrubs and trees can have edible flowers, fruit and or nuts. The blossoms of apples, cherries, peach, elderberries, and red bud can be eaten. The fruit of Service Berry (Amelanchier) looks and tastes like a blueberry and is a native that attracts plenty of wildlife that wants a chance at the berries too.

The garden was once the medicine cabinet. The healing properties of plants required knowledge of certain plants for their help in healing. This is a knowledge that can be acquired and used as a guide for growing. Rose of Sharon (hibiscus syriacus), named after the Valley of Sharon in Palestine has flowers and leaves that can be made into a tea high in anti-oxidants. Roses have been used for thousands of years for perfume, medicine and food. This year roses are the 2012 Herb of the Year. Tea from the flowers, leaves and rose hips has been used in herbal traditions throughout the world. Rose hips are high in Vitamin C.

The choices of plants are many. There are books and teachers who can help increase the diversity of knowledge about how gardens can be mixed up with beautiful healing and nutritious plants. They can be planted in all parts of the garden, but best if planted in the front yard for others to see and be inspired.

Linda Wiggen Kraft is a mandala artist and garden designer who uses the wisdom of many traditions in her work. Visit her webiste & blog: www.creativityforthesoul.com/blog or (314) 504-4266.

Note: The Missouri Botanical Garden class on Missouri Healing Plants will be held on June 23rd.