Ornamental, Edible Gardens at Lynmar Estate Winery

A Lively Tapestry

By: Kate Frey

Kate Frey, a horticulturist and designer specializing in habitat gardens, formerly managed the garden at Fetzer Winery in Hopland, California….

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Towering bronze fennel along with ‘Red Cathedral’ 
and ‘Giant Burgundy’ amaranth shelter a comfortable 
bench flanked by barrels of colorful annuals. Photo: Kate Frey

Towering bronze fennel along with ‘Red Cathedral’ 
and ‘Giant Burgundy’ amaranth shelter a comfortable 
bench flanked by barrels of colorful annuals. Photo: Kate Frey

Most edible gardens tend to be utilitarian spaces. Squads of segregated vegetables march down measured beds with no thought of beauty. Their final destiny—be it steamer or the Cuisinart—the only concern. Wildlife such as bees, beneficial insects, and birds are forgotten in the quest toward the dinner table.

We admire the rich and mingled colors of flower arrangements, carpets, and paintings, and our ornamental landscapes often reflect these tastes. In the same way, exquisite compositions of color and design from the leaves or seedheads of many vegetables 
can be combined to create edible paintings with 
vibrant—even fluorescent—hues, and finely etched or swirling baroque textures. Flowers contribute to the garden’s biodiversity and radiate life beside a cascade of edible color. The delineation between edible, 
ornamental, and life-filled dissolves, creating a 
tapestry of color, interest, and habitat value composed of easy-to-grow plants we can all enjoy.

A path weaves between a lively mix of ‘Sensation’ cosmos, ‘Persian Carpet’ zinnia, and ‘Blue Horizon’ ageratum on the left and a froth 
of celery flowers on the right.  Photo: Kate Frey

A path weaves between a lively mix of ‘Sensation’ cosmos, ‘Persian Carpet’ zinnia, and ‘Blue Horizon’ ageratum on the left and a froth 
of celery flowers on the right. Photo: Kate Frey

Many wineries have edible gardens, although they are often kept out of sight so as not to distract 
from the “real” gardens that are designed to enhance and promote the wine-tasting experience. Lynn and Anisya Fritz, Lynmar Estate Winery owners, wanted to complement the enjoyment of wine by surrounding the tasting room with edible gardens to connect people with food as much as with wine. The winery is next to the Laguna de Santa Rosa, a wetland complex that is home to much wildlife, especially birds. Management practices in the vineyards and gardens are designed to support this diverse environment by including flowers that are colorful and that support pollinators, beneficial insects, butterflies, and many birds with the edible plantings. What better place to express these values than outside the main door?

A tonal winter composition of purple cabbage, and 
‘Ragged Jack’ and ‘Winterbor’ kale with ruby chard.  Photo: Kate Frey

A tonal winter composition of purple cabbage, and 
‘Ragged Jack’ and ‘Winterbor’ kale with ruby chard. Photo: Kate Frey

I began renovating the Lynmar gardens in 
November 2010 by combining many small beds into larger ones. Around the tasting room, the soil was 
extremely compacted and the workable depth extremely shallow. Without adequate and consistent soil fertility the gardens’ appearance was poor. Because the soil teems with gophers, beds were first lined with gopher wire. Then we boosted soil nutrients by increasing and upgrading the type and amount of mulch, organic compost, and fertilizer used in the gardens. Plants responded and leapt from the soil, eliciting pleased exclamations from guests as they stepped from the tasting room.

My idea was to create nibbling gardens; individual leaves or vegetables would be harvested here and there, leaving the ensemble intact for a prolonged harvest 
and viewing season. Flowers were chosen for ease of 
cultivation, bright colors, long bloom, and their ability to attract insects or birds, avoiding anything that needed deadheading or fussing with. To create workable 
gardens, almost everything in the spring through summer gardens needs to perform well and continually produce 
throughout the season, with the exception of lettuce 
and other greens—short-season crops are planted 
in succession along the edges of the beds. Crops are replaced in August and September with winter-hardy vegetables and flowers.

The summer garden in its operatic glory contains a vibrant mix of anise hyssop, Mexican sunflower, ‘Redbor’ kale, purple cabbage, 
love lies bleeding, and ‘Opopeo’ amaranth.  Photo: Kate Frey

The summer garden in its operatic glory contains a vibrant mix of anise hyssop, Mexican sunflower, ‘Redbor’ kale, purple cabbage, 
love lies bleeding, and ‘Opopeo’ amaranth. Photo: Kate Frey

Warm Season Planning

In the greenhouse in February and March, seeds are started for red, gold, and magenta chard, and purple ‘Redbor’ kale—a brooding, frilly confection that has excellent heat tolerance—as well as leeks, celery, 
bulbing fennel, purple orach, ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet, 
‘Red Russian’ and ‘Lacinato’ kale, purple cabbage, 
ornamental chiles, eggplant, ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato, and zucchini. For herbs and flowers we plant bronze fennel, anise hyssop, basil of every variety, and edible flowers like nasturtium, violas, and signet marigolds. To attract beneficial insects we start ageratum, sulphur cosmos and the white cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Psyche White’), purple cleome, tithonia, ‘Sombrero’ zinnias, sunflowers, and plants with edible seeds 
like quinoa and amaranth. Seedlings are planted 
out as they are ready in April and May from six-pack size containers.

The flowers all have to bloom continuously 
without deadheading, be very colorful, and 
attract pollinators, beneficial insects, and birds like hummingbirds and finches. Cleome, cosmos, 
sunflowers, basils, and anise hyssop are favorite 
bee plants—both honeybee and native bees; tithonia and ageratum are favored by butterflies. Hummingbirds visit zinnias, cleome, anise hyssop, nasturtiums, and tithonia. Finches and nuthatches like the sunflowers and amaranth. Beneficial insects love the flowers of fennel, celery, and basil.

A whimsical planting of large and small fruited gourds clothe an old truck.  Photo: Kate Frey

A whimsical planting of large and small fruited gourds clothe an old truck. Photo: Kate Frey

Vegetables were chosen for their beautiful foliage, fruits or seed heads, but also how they would combine into an impressionistic composition with no formal pattern but a desired collage of greens, blues, grays, lavender, purple, and red with various shades of 
shocking magenta, yellow, and crimson from chard as color accents. The flower colors were chosen to be complementary or to highlight the vegetables colors. Both vegetables and flowers are planted closely, just eight to ten inches apart in congregations of one, to create a dense, exuberant effect with no straight lines or plant groupings. As the summer progresses, 
the plants assume gigantic proportions as they leap skyward, and individual beds read collectively as a forest of flowers and edibles.

A carpet of crops in the established winter garden against the golden vineyards in late October.  Photo: Kate Frey

A carpet of crops in the established winter garden against the golden vineyards in late October. Photo: Kate Frey

Cool Season Planning

When the summer array begins to look tired the beds are cleared and replanted with winter-hardy plants while the days and nights are still warm enough in August and early September to promote good growth.

The viniferous hues of ‘Redbor’ kale, ‘Ruby Frills’ mustard, and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet.   Photo: Kate Frey

The viniferous hues of ‘Redbor’ kale, ‘Ruby Frills’ mustard, and ‘Bull’s Blood’ beet. Photo: Kate Frey

The winter garden is much more subdued in tone and stature, reflecting the cool temperatures and thin light. Various shades of purple dominate, from ‘Redbor’ kale to the lighter shades ofpurple orach, the deepest red-purple of ‘Bull’s Blood’ beets, and the torn strands of ‘Ruby Frills’ mustard foliage highlighted by orange and rhubarb chard, and gray leeks. Bright green celery lightens the mood. With a lower profile than the summer garden, the individual personality of each vegetable stands out. ‘Lacinato’ kale has a perfect vase shape with leaves that curl like finials. ‘Ragged Jack’ or ‘Red Russian’ kale looks like lace-edged doilies, and purple cabbage leaves look like giant hand-painted petals. ‘Chidori’ kale has a heart of bright lavender among its 
frilly gray skirts. Radicchio is a study in paisley 
and red Pac choi could be a cubist representation 
of a woman. Contrasting wildflowers in brilliant shades of bright yellow, gold, deep blue and purple, like goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata), meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), and honeywort (Cerinthe major purpurascens), create a whole that is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Bees and beneficial insects are attracted to the honeywort and meadowfoam.

In all seasons, one plant is hardly distinguishable 
from the next and boundaries are erased; only abundant growth and an array of bees, insects, and hummingbirds—as well as astonished visitors—is the rule. It is enthusiastically exuberant even vivacious, perhaps close to intoxicating.

Morning dew glistens on a purple cabbage leaf.  Photo: Kate Frey

Morning dew glistens on a purple cabbage leaf. Photo: Kate Frey

Though the scale at the winery is large, the concept of an energetic, edible, bio-diverse, and ornamental landscape can easily translate to the home garden, whatever the size. All the plants listed in this article are great candidates. Every year is another occasion to dream up lively new tapestries of flowers and food.