Mark Gregory, the ‘King of Chelsea’, on how to create a garden whose plants taste as good as they look

Five-time Chelsea Flower Show gold medalist Mark Gregory recommends growing plants in your garden that look as good as they taste.

It’s one thing to set up a show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show; another gold medal. But the nickname “King of Chelsea” is a whole other level, but Mark Gregory deserved it. The award-winning garden designer and landscape architect has created over 100 show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show over the past four decades, winning five gold medals.

Originally from Yorkshire, he is Managing Director of Landform Consultants based in Chobham, Surrey. His latest garden on SW3 (his 107th overall) is The Savills Garden, which showcases plot-to-plate design where growing your own and creating beautiful outdoor space are one and the same. It is described as “a plan that combines edible plants with ornamentals to create both a productive and beautiful space, as well as save space, reduce maintenance and costs.”

However, Savills Garden will be more than just a concept: it will feature a working outdoor kitchen and Michelin-starred chef Sam Buckley, both a first for Chelsea. Sam will even use produce from the garden to prepare a three-course meal for Chelsea pensioners to enjoy in the garden itself.

Savills Garden, designed by Mark Gregory.

We’ll be going into detail about the 2023 Chelsea Flower Show, but ahead of the event, Mark was kind enough to share his tips for choosing plants for your own garden that taste as good as they look.

7 plants that taste as good as they look

1. Rainbow chard

(Beta vulgaris, subspecies vulgaris)

Rainbow swiss chard.

Its vibrant stems come in a variety of colors that are just as eye-catching as any flower. Its leaves can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in a variety of dishes.

2. Red basil

(Basil Basil ‘Red Ruby’)

Basil “Red Ruby”.

Its deep purple leaves make it a stunning addition to any garden. Harvest just before watering for a more intense flavor and tear rather than cut as the metal from the knife can change the taste. Its slightly spicy clove flavor is great in salads or makes a great pesto sauce.

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3. Nasturtium

(Tropeolum large)

Nasturtium flowers (Tropaeolum majus).

An ideal plant to attract children as it is easy to grow and they will love collecting water lily leaves and colorful flowers. Versatile “edimental” as the seeds, leaves and flowers are edible. Pickle the seeds to make “poor man’s capers”, crush the leaves to make pesto, or season the oil with gem-colored petals that add a nectar-tinged pungency.

4. Violet crested

(Viola horned)

Viola is horned.

An ideal topping for a cake or dessert, the delicate and delicate flowers are also a charming addition to salads or cocktails, and their leaves can be harvested to make tea.

5. Blue cornflower

(Centaurus blue)

Blue cornflowers.

This charming flower has bright blue petals and a slightly spicy, clove-like taste. The petals can be used in salads, desserts, or as a garnish for drinks.

6. Red Veined Sorrel

(Rumex sanguineus var. sanguineus)

Fresh sorrel with bright red veins.

The vibrant red veins running through the leaves of this plant make it a visually appealing addition to any garden. The leaves have a sharp lemony flavor that adds a refreshing touch to salads and sauces. It goes especially well with fish. More mature leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups or casseroles.

6. Borago

(borage officinalis)

Borago officinalis (Borago officinalis).

Freeze the striking blue flowers and leaf tips into ice cubes for a beautiful addition to summer sunsets, or slice the leaves for a mild cucumber flavor to brighten up soups and salads. Mixed with ricotta, it makes an excellent filling for fresh ravioli.

7. Calendula

(Calendula officinalis)

Calendula officinalis or common calendula.

This plant is distinguished by thin, pointed leaves and a citrus aroma. The leaves can be used to make herbal teas, syrups, desserts, or as a flavoring in savory dishes.

Former Country Life gardens editor Katherine Bradley-Hole hopes Chelsea’s pendulum has swung back towards traditional gardens.

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