A delicious potager in Denver

Not just a vegetable patch
Colleen Smith

The garden of Judy and Ken Robins is a feast for the eyes and the palate. Known as a potager (from the French word potage, or soup), this style of garden mingles edible and ornamental plants. For example, in this bed, nasturtiums with peppery yellow and orange flowers are backed by zucchini squash and hefty heads of cabbage.

The Robinses also grow arugula, broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peppers, and turnips. Behind these crops rise tall flowering perennials such as pink and red bee balm and Joe Pye weed ( Eupatorium purpureum 'Gateway'), with showy mauve plumes. In the center of the garden, surrounded by a 2-inch-deep layer of pea gravel, island beds planted with yellow snapdragons and summer phlox are accented by trellises entwined with sweet peas (front) and purple hyacinth bean (rear). Around the beds, black steel edging keeps the gravel in place.

Designed by Laurie Jekel, owner of the Last Detail (303/733-5280), a Denver-based landscaping firm, the garden owes much of its bountiful look to the soil itself. Jekel enriched it with her specialty compost of sterilized cow manure mixed with wood chips and fortified with granular iron. Jekel's staff cultivates the soil once a week.