When you first start growing Swiss chard in your edible landscaping, you'll wonder how you ever did without it!
Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris cicla) is a beet which has been bred to produce large foliage and colorful stalks -- without growing the underground bulb that other beets have.
Swiss chard is known by a number of different names, including spinach beet, silverbeet, seakale beet, crab beet, mangold, and leaf beet.
According to Wikipedia, 19th century seed catalog publishers in the US used the term "Swiss" to distinguish chard from French spinach varieties, and the term stuck.
You can find Swiss chard in a variety of colors and sizes, which makes them very versatile -- you can usually find something that fits your garden plan. Simply select the kind that has the look you want.
Just like in spinach, there are two major types of Swiss chard: curly leaf and smooth leaf. Almost all varieties, no matter what the type of leaf, have large leaves and stems, with the exception of "Perpetual spinach"
Perpetual spinach is about half the size of other Swiss chard, with small, smooth leaves, and tastes very much like spinach. These little plants do well growing in containers and are often used in that way.
Sometimes any old Swiss chard is mislabeled "perpetual spinach", so make sure you have the "perpetual spinach" variety before buying.
White-stemmed varieties are generally more productive and more tolerant of weather extremes than the varieties of other colors, so use those in cases where you're concerned about those factors if you can.
For example, if you really need a large quantity of Swiss chard -- perhaps growing in a traditional backyard vegetable garden -- and you're not so concerned about its color, growing a white-stemmed variety such as Lucullus or Fordhook (especially Fordhook Giant) will probably be best for you.
Of course, growing white-stemmed Swiss chard would be gorgeous in a front yard garden where white is a major part of the color scheme, such as an all-white garden or one using white garden decorations or fencing.
Brightly colored Swiss chard varieties with red, pink, yellow or orange stems are superstars among edible ornamentals. These stunning plant varieties are available separately as either plants or seed, or in pre-packaged seed mixtures (aka "rainbow chard").
These can be used for growing in borders, as low divider hedges, as the focal point of a garden bed containing smaller plants (try planting a clump of chard in one spot for a burst of color!), growing in a ring around a small shrub or tree, or mixed into a flower garden.
And of course, if your theme involves growing a specific color or group of colors (an all-pink yard, a Mediterranean garden, or a plot with your national colors in it) then Swiss chard can be incorporated into your yard very easily. Just pick the colors you want and start planting.
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