Flowering Cabbage and Kale Bring Color, Texture to Fall Garden

For fabulous color in your winter garden, try flowering cabbage and kale, now "Blooming in the Patch."

For cool weather color and texture, few plants can compare to the Ornamental “Flowering” Cabbages and Kale. The purple, pink or white colors of the leaves become quite pronounced as the weather gets colder, especially after a couple of hard frosts.

Cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, collards, rutabagas, turnips, kohlrabi, and cauliflower are all part of the mustard family. As different as these plants are from each other, they are just variations of the same basic form. Wild “Brassica oleracea” is native to the coastal regions of Europe, from England to Italy, and still persists there today. The ancient Greeks and Romans grew it for food but it was cultivated long before that. During the second world war, the cultivation of kale in the U.K. was encouraged because the vegetable was easy to grow and provided important nutrients to supplement those missing from a normal diet due to rationing. The ornamental variations are not as tasty as the ones we plant for food however so I don't recommend trying to eat them.

Plant them in full sun, and do not expect them to increase in size from when you buy them. Most of the time they are already root-bound so they may get “taller” but not wider. In mild winters I have had them look attractive up until spring arrives and with the right conditions, they will “bolt” and put out little sprouts on the sides making interesting plants with several “flower heads”. Most of the time, they end up in the compost pile as they start to smell like over cooked cabbage and the daffodils show their sprouts.

You can pick them up at most nurseries, and lucky me, I found them on sale at a farmers market up north before the storm. Sickles carries the largest in this area, but they are smaller and less expensive at Shop-rite and Lowes.

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