The quest to keep color in the garden can be difficult during the winter months. To help maintain a colorful garden throughout the year, gardeners often resort to ornamental cabbage and kale.
Long used in business landscaping, the plants are being used in residential yards as a way to add color to the bland winter landscape.
With an affinity for cooler temperatures, ornamental cabbage, which is characterized by a smooth head with a deeply colored center, can be used in borders or in bowl gardens. Kales have more ruffled leaves.
"I think they're pretty in borders," said Judy Sanderlin, the owner of Sanderlin Green Houses in Appling. "They are pretty to the edge of containers and then put the taller flowers around them."
Ornamental cabbage and kales should be planted in a sunny location in a moderately moist and rich soil for best results. The ornamental varieties of these plants look much like their edible cousins with the exception of a more ruffled leaf. Their center colors can range from purple to red to pink to white.
According to the Web site The Garden Helper, there are some things to look for when purchasing ornamental cabbages and kales.
Plants with a short rosette-type stem are best. If the plant is allowed to become root-bound to its pot, it won't grow to be much larger after it is planted.
If that's the case, you'll likely want to buy the largest plant you can find even though it might cost a little more.
When planting the cabbage, be sure to plant the stem so that the lowest leaves are flush with the ground. The plant should be well-watered.
"They stay real fat in cooler weather," Sanderlin said. "The heads will grow tall in the spring and that's when you get rid of them. In warmer weather, they will cone up and flower."
And like their edible cousins, ornamental cabbage and kales can be eaten, although they have a more bitter taste and their colors turn gray when cooked.
The leaves are often used to garnish plates.
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