PICK AND MIX YOUR FRUIT AND VEG; Take Advantage of London's Microclimate and Grow Food among Your Patio Flowers

Article excerpt

Byline: Pattie Barron

MAKE this summer the season your containers earn their keep. Even with limited space you can have a display that collectively delivers colour, fragrance, fruit and flowers as well as a steady stream of delicious salad supplies. Just as you might grow cabbages among the roses or shoehorn a lettuce or three between the hydrangeas, plant fruit and veg cheek by jowl with flower and foliage.

This year the garden centres are stocking almost as many ready-to-go veg plants as bedding; exploit the city's microclimate by seeking out tender peppers, aubergines and tomatoes, both bush and trailing, and give them the warmest, sunniest spot on patio, terrace or balcony.

Look for large aubergine plants that already show gorgeous lilac flowers and even glossy purple fruits among the mauve-tinted foliage. Just one will make a handsome central feature in a large terracotta pot or trough; keep the company tasteful with the cool blues and purples of Verbena Homestead Purple and trailing lobelia, or buy a cell tray of burgundy and lime frilly lettuces and plant them sparingly around the aubergine; they will soon froth into one another, and you need only harvest the leaves to keep the display in check.

Chilli plants provide brilliant daubs of yellow, green and scarlet, as well as provide the kitchen with plenty of Mexican heat. Mix them up with equally fiery-tinted Tagetes marigolds, their rich gold flecked with ruby markings, and mauve-flowered decorative sages such as Salvia farinacea Victoria.

Make an aromatic pizza pot by planting a scarlet bush tomato in the top of a terracotta strawberry planter, and settling green and purple basil and woolly oregano into the side pockets.

Buy a pair of U-shaped bamboo canes -- 4ft high is best -- and push them into a large pot of compost so one hooks over the other, at right angles. Now you have the perfect climbing frame for baby cucumbers such as delicious, crunchy Diva; you will not believe how quickly they will clamber up and over the frame. Nasturtiums would be ideal to cover bare patches of bare compost in your cucumber container, and add a peppery addition to salads. …