Five beautiful plants with secret uses

Be a clever gardener, pick plants that not only look fantastic but fend off flies, taste great in salad or act as a natural air freshener. Gardening expert Michael Perry offers his five top duel use crops...

If you have little space to plant, and want to make your selection as useful as possible, try these clever crops out for size. They’re not just pretty, they double up as mosquito repellent, food flavouring and an attraction for bees and butterflies…


French Marigolds: for repelling white flies

Want to know the secret of growing bumper crops of tomatoes? Growing African or French marigolds in greenhouses or borders will repel white fly from your tomatoes. It has also been found that the tomatoes grow better, tastier and bear more fruit, with marigolds around them.

Best season to plant: Sow seed each spring.

Tips: French Marigolds are also ideal for attracting bees and butterflies to your garden, so you can do your bit for the declining bee populations.

Buy French Marigolds with Radio Times Gardening, see here for more details

Pansies: use them as an ingredient in your salad

This flower’s flavour is slightly peppery, and won’t need a sniff of dressing. Just think how you could surprise your friends with a plate of rainbow-coloured flowers instead of the usual limp lettuce selection. 

Best season to plant: Pansies enjoy a cool climate, so plant in shady corners; for summer or winter flowering.

Tips: Always keep ahead with removing faded flowers; this will keep the new blooms coming.

Buy Pansies with Radio Times Gardening, see here for more details

Eucalyptus Lemon Bush: natural air freshener and mosquito repellent

When you crush the foliage of this pretty Eucalyptus, it gives off a refreshing, spicy lemon aroma which is known to deter mosquitoes, making it ideal for summer patios, so you can enjoy your barbeque in peace.

Best season to plant: Grow from seed or buy plants; keep in containers and trim regularly to keep compact.

Tips: Try picking some leaves and drying them for use indoors.

Buy Eucalyptus Lemon Bushes with Radio Times Gardening, see here for more details

Nasturtiums: use these instead of capers

Can’t quite afford capers, or find the taste too tart? Why not try growing your own? Nastrutiums are an excellent substitute for capers, with the peppery kick of the unripe seeds. Use them fresh or pickle them for later use.

Best season to plant: Really easy to grow from seed; sow anytime from April to June, straight into the soil outdoors.

Tips: The flowers and leaves are edible too; both have a lovely peppery kick.

Buy Nasturtiums with Radio Times Gardening, see here for more details

Pea Shiraz: not just food but decoration too

Try these bright purple mange tout pods, with their two-tone flowers. They sit right at home in a flower border, and look great in mixed pots on the patio.

Best season to plant: You can sow this pea up to July; it’s mildew resistant, so can be sown much later than most other peas.

Tips: Peas are so easy to grow; plant them direct into the ground outdoors.


Buy Pea Shirazwith Radio Times Gardening, see here for more details