The potager at Woolbeding Gardens

The potager of around 1,200 lettuce surrounding an ornamental swan

One feature of the gardens that always draws interest and many questions from our visitors is our unique Potager. Traditionally a potager is the French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden, created to make the growing of food attractive and aesthetically pleasing

Our potager here at Woolbeding consists of approximately 1,200 lettuces. The design is changed three times a year, with each design lasting around ten weeks until the lettuces begin to ‘hearten’ and in warm weather, bolt.

As you visit throughout the season, keep an eye out for our favourite varieties and see our Potager change month by month. The central area of the Potager is filled with lettuces, surrounded by chives. Our designs are composed of two or three contrasting varieties of lettuce: our particular favourites are ‘Nymans’ (a dark purple), ‘Lolla Rossa’, (a frilly loose leaved green variety turning to purple), ‘Tom Thumb’, (a dark green butterhead), and finally ‘Lettony’, (a frilly pale green). The centre piece of the design is a box (buxus sempervirens) clipped as a proud swan.

Visit the Potager in the summer months to experience fragrant sweet peas in a multitude of colours, artichokes that reach incredible heights, runner beans on 8” bean poles and asparagus, which once picked by mid-June provides a soft feathery effect. Underplanting varies from season to season. Frequently used plants include squashes, courgettes, cucumbers, herbs, nasturtiums and marigolds. In the surrounding beds there is a wide abundance of fruit, vegetables and flowers, including Ballerina apples creating a gateway, and gooseberries fanning the back wall to soften the brick work.

All these features combine to create a decorative, beautiful, yet highly productive area of the garden for you to enjoy. To see a potager on a grand scale, look to the formal gardens of Villandry in France, where food growing has been taken to a whole new artistic level!