Tired of looking at a barren flowerbed during those winter months? Consider a couple of veggies to dress up that landscape with deep and bright colors. An easy way to keep your exterior looking pretty this fall and winter is to plant ornamental cabbage and kale. These beautiful plants are sure to turn eyes and make your neighbors jealous.
If you give a rip about your landscaping then you surely find yourself a bit frustrated this time of year. Moving all the warm-weather plants inside the house or greenhouse tend to leave your flowerbeds in want of color and texture, but what can survive through frost, ice, and snow? Funky-looking vegetables are all the rage this season, and for good reason. They add a unique beauty to your exterior beds during a time when it’s tough to get anything to grow.
How to Incorporate Decorative Cold-Weather Plants
Effectively using ornamental cabbage and kale in your garden—replacing those summer annuals for a year-long display of beauty—is not difficult at all.
Once you have your plants (more on where to purchase and how to plant in a bit), begin by positioning them so their best sides and colors are exposed. This shouldn’t be hard to do since, cabbage, in particular, has its deep coloration in the center of the plant, making it easy to position. Use a mass-planting technique (multiple plants together in bunches) and use them in the center or edges of your garden area. It’s not a bad idea to find a few cold-weather perennials to mix in with your cabbage and kale—bluestem grass, dark-colored sedums, even asters are good options—to form a decorative ground border.
If you don’t feel like digging up the earth in your yard, you can always find planting containers, exterior pots to house your veggies. Maybe throw in a few pansies with them. The pansies don’t always make it through the winter, but if they do, it’s a great look having all these plants tucked together. Swiss chard, snapdragons, petunias, and chrysanthemums are other good options besides pansies. These plants can handle light frosts, but do struggle through tough, cold weather.
Why Cabbage and Kale?
Let’s back up a bit. What exactly are flowering cabbage and kale—can you eat them? Well, yes you can, but once you see them flower you won’t want to disturb that elegant, deep coloration. Also, they do have a somewhat of a bitter taste, so you might want to stick with eating the regular, non-flowering, type.
Flowering cabbage and kale are actually within the same species. What is so attractive about these plants is their large leaves of white and pink and purple and red. The leaves themselves tend to be curly, frilly, or ruffled, which gives the coloration a texture and depth. These beauts grow a full foot wide and anywhere from 12-15 inches tall, so they won’t overtake an area, just make it look spectacular.
There are a variety of types of cabbage and kale for you to choose from, depending on what is sold in your area (though Amazon has a good selection if you don’t fancy anything you find in-person). Here are a few of our favorite types:
• Chidori Kale. This type has purple foliage with curly leaves and a white center. The purple is a dark royal color and paired with the white center, these really pop. That textured leaf is a cool feature as well that gives the coloration some depth and pizazz.
• Color Up Cabbage. This has a cylinder-like shape that grows upright. It has green leaves and a white center that also turns shades of pink. This one is not as deep in color as the Chidori kale, but the wispy tones contrast well against a gray winter setting.
• Nagoya Kale. Here, we have crimped leaves with a tight center that fluctuates in color from pink to lavender to yellow and green. It can also turn a creamy white. This is a fun one to watch change its shades over the weeks and through different levels of cool weather.
• Osaka Cabbage. We love this one because of its unique colors and shape: blue and green tones with wavy green leaves and a pink, red, or white center. The different color tones work well together and this one tends to pop more than the others.
• Peacock Cabbage/Kale. Both plants come in this version of serrated leaves with a feathery red and white floral. It almost looks like something you would find in the Great Barrier Reef rather than your backyard.
• Pigeon Cabbage. This one comes with a red or white center, green leaves, and is pretty standard as far as these plants go. If you are looking for something a little less flamboyant, this is your guy.
• Tokyo Cabbage. If you want your landscaping to look put-together and sleek, this is the one. It has a perfectly round shape with smooth blue and green leaves and a soft pink, red, or white center.
There are actually plenty more types of cabbage and kale, but after a while, they start to look like variants of the ones listed above. Take your time and look through them though and see which might fit best into the style of landscaping you have.
A Few More Things…
These ornamental vegetables do not like the summer heat, especially down here in the South, so you will need to start the plants from seed during the mid-summer months—unless you buy a plant already established, and there is nothing wrong with this option other than finding them for sale. Again, check Amazon!
If you plant seeds, sow about 6-10 weeks prior to the first slated frost for your area. Once the seeds are in it’s important that the weather begins to cool down (over the coming weeks) so the plants can begin to grow and thrive. That said, down here where the sun shines on for a while, you might want to sow seeds in a greenhouse or wait until closer to the end of summer to get them in the ground. Another option is to place the seeds in pots and stick them in the refrigerator for a week or so. This will encourage germination and help them get established early.
Plant in a well-lit area (full sun is fine). If you purchase plants already grown, be sure and look for large, tightly knit ones that are full of color. They will not get much bigger once planted, and the size definitely indicates the level of health. Be sure and use rich soil with natural fertilizer—we highly recommend using Plan-Tone, as it can’t kill your plants, only help them grow healthy and strong. When planting an established cabbage or kale, bury the stems making the lowest hanging leaves equal with the ground. Water the plants right away and keep watering daily for the first few days. If it’s warm, the color may fade but it will come back once the cool winds come.
If you are looking for some help this winter, The Landscape Guys of Georgia have got you covered! Let us know how we can help bring your garden back to life this winter.