Vegetables such as peppers, lettuce, beets, eggplant, and sweet potatoes can all be used for outdoor decoration.
Lindgren says people are getting more imaginative in using ornamentals. "Ten years ago, it was petunias and marigolds. Now it's sweet potatoes, peppers, and leafy vegetables. The whole seasonal thing has exploded."
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People tend to pay more for decorative plants than for those grown simply for eating, Ms. Sears says. "They're willing to buy into the entertainment value. Pumpkins, the primary example."
Other ornamentals that can liven up landscapes and homes include:
: The dark green foliage contrasts nicely with the many fruit colors, including some that mature into Christmaslike reds and greens. "The fruits of these plants are edible, although usually extremely hot and often bitter, so be cautious about eating them," Lindgren says.
: Its colors intensify as temperatures drop in the fall. The green outer leaves surround an assortment of crinkled white or reddish-purple inner leaves, making the plant look like a large flower.
Leaf lettuces, radishes, mustard, spinach, and low-growing herbs
: Look for lettuce cultivars with curly leaves, red coloration or deeply lobed foliage, Lindgren says. "These mixes also include radicchio, endive, and other edible greens."
Beans and other vine crops
: Scarlet runner beans often are placed alongside flower seeds in garden stores or seed catalogs. "Although they are grown for their showy red flower, the pods are edible," Lindgren says. Squash, gourds, pumpkins and cucumbers also are vine crops with lush foliage and showy blossoms, plus interesting fruit.
: The fruit matures into many colors, from white, violet, and lavender to the standard dark black-purple. Shapes range from egglike to cylindrical.
Swiss chard and beet
s: Swiss chard has bright and distinct ribbed leaves with stems ranging from red to yellow. "While most people grow beets for their edible root, the tops also are edible and can be quite ornamental, creating interest in plant borders or salad bowls," Lindgren says.
: Ornamental sweet potatoes have become popular, primarily as container plants. "They're valued for their trailing vines with lime-green, purple, and multicolored foliage."
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