A vegetable garden does not have to look like an old shoe. There's no reason to not combine flowers and good design with edibles.
There is a famous classic garden in France, called the Grand Chateau of Villandry. The design is pure royal elegance with squares and circles in intricate arrangement. What is unique is that each square is filled with ... vegetables!
Yes, lowly vegetables. However, each square has its own geometric design, and special vegetable arrangement. Surrounding each square is a hedge of flowers and roses. The entrance is through a rose arbor. This vegetable garden is cabbages designed for kings. True, one may not have a chateau, but even a little patch near Beantown can have some form and style.
The Demands Of Crops needn't be neglected though. Plants are arranged with the shortest ones on the south, so they aren't shaded out by taller ones. For disease control, crops should be rotated on a three year cycle to retard disease and insect buildup.
Succession planting can be planned in. Fast and slow maturing crops can be used in the same row to increase yield. Fast loose leaf lettuce, spinach and mesclun can be planted with slow cabbages. Onions sets and scallions among tomatoes are another. Radishes and parsley among carrots also work. What's more, they confuse the carrot maggot flies.
To Bring the Feeling of Villandry to Your Home.Try surrounding the garden with flowers or small shrubs. Line the paths with strawberries or flowers.
Marigolds, easy to grow, are often used. It's not certain that their reputed nematode repellant function really works, especially in northern climates, but they're nice flowers anyway. Neat small cabbages are decorative, as are lettuces, basils and beet foliage.
Grow the staked crops at the back, and on the sides. Grow the really messy crops in the back quadrants where they won't be so noticeable. It helps too, if the paths around the messy crops are edged with neat vegetables or flowers. Consider growing cut flowers as a crop. And why not a bench under a rose arbor as well? Suddenly the vegetable patch can be a garden. If not cabbages for kings, at least bellflowers and beans for us commoners.
The Disadvantage Is that once launched on the road to beautiful vegetables, neatness becomes more important than it should be. Weeds and mulch and matching stakes become valuable for their own sake. It all depends on one's neatness genes and compulsive virtue. To be honest, mine lasts only until about mid-July.
My own garden is round, with 4 quadrants for crop rotation. The center has a small patch of wild strawberries, that bear a miniscule crop of more miniscule berries. There are stepping stones, so I know where to put my feet, and where ants like to nest. (I wish I had a pet anteater, for their eggs under each stone.) The main path is N-S for sun orientation. It's lined with small perennial cuttings from friends. Irises line the inner circle path. The flowers are doing better because, unfortunately, my rotten resident woodchucks prefer the beans and carrots.