Plant pair adds color to winter garden

  • By Norman Winter McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Wednesday, November 14, 2012 8:35pm
  • Life

Flowering kale and cabbage are a favorite cool-season plant, but I recently saw them from a new perspective: backlit by the late afternoon sun. I was amazed at the brilliant purples and mauves in some leaves and iridescent stripes in others.

We think of kale and cabbage as pansy partners or to be used in stunning combinations with snapdragons, but after watching them closely throughout the day I believe they can offer all the cool-season sizzle you may want.

These plants, which survive in zones just about anywhere in as cold as 0 degrees, are among the easiest to grow. They do prefer fertile well-drained soil.

At the Columbus Botanical Garden we added a 4-inch layer of organic matter before rototilling. We also incorporated a slow-release, 12-6-6-fertilizer at a rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed space.

Flowering kale and cabbage should be set in the soil to a depth just slightly below the bottom set of leaves. The plants will reach 6 to 12 inches in height, and you will want to space them 12 to 18 inches apart.

Even though we are approaching mid-November, garden centers are loaded with good supplies and a number of varieties.

After planting be sure to add a good layer of mulch to help stabilize soil temperatures and conserve moisture. We used pine straw but there is nothing prettier than fresh bark mulch.

One nice note on pine straw: You can completely cover the kale should record cold be forecast, and leave it covered for a few days until the temperature moderates.

Kale and cabbage need good drainage yet must be kept moist and fed to keep them growing vigorously. Pay especially close attention as dry, cold fronts have a tendency to really deplete the available moisture. Feed with a dilute water-soluble fertilizer every four to six weeks.

The colors really intensify as the temperatures start to drop.

Unfortunately, the same cabbageworms that attack broccoli can be a pest on these plants as well. So far in our plantings we have had no damage. Watch and treat as needed with Bacillus thuringensis. This organic pest control is safe and poses no threat to gardeners.

These plants can be showy by themselves, or for a riveting display, try bold drifts of pink or purple kale next to another drift of a white variety. Consider planting a large bed of narcissus behind the kale or cabbage for special spring display.

Kale and cabbage also are exceptional in large containers where you might place three in a triangular design. Plant tulips or daffodils in the center of the triangle and then place pansies around the edges.

There are many more varieties than gardeners realize. The Chidori series with its fringed ruffled leaves and intense colors have become the most popular. The Peacock and Sparrow series also have to be considered among the prettiest.

Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus Ga., and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden.”

More in Life

Co-owner Jason Parzyk carries two growlers to fill as he serves up beer at Lake Stevens Brewing Co. The first brewery in the city is celebrating one-year anniversary this weekend. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Beer of the Week: Lake Stevens Brewing Co.’s Sour Imperial

The beer has a depth and a complex flavor profile that goes beyond just another barrel-aged stout.

Legendary bluesman Curtis Salgado to play Arlington show

The Northwest blues-soul-funk-R&B living legend performs with Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons Nov. 18.

This year’s Snohomish Blues Invasion has an all-star lineup

Proceeds send the CD Woodbury Trio and the Benton-Townsend Duo to the International Blues Challenge.

Schack holiday show features Northwest watercolor artists

The free exhibit also will have three-dimensional works, such as jewelry, glass, ceramic and wood.

‘Three Billboards’ rooted in Frances McDormand’s rigid role

The actress of “Fargo” fame gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this black comedy on human nature.

‘The Hate U Give’ shows the burden of being black in America

Angie Thomas’ story of a teen girl covers the challenging experience of African Americans.

A merry Christmas concert with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

The Christian music stars will perform at Xfinity Arena with Jordan Smith of “The Voice” on Nov. 18.

‘Veep’ production postponed during Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ treatment

The 56-year-old star has been documenting her breast cancer fight on social media.

The Rucker Hill house is featured in the Twin Peaks series in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Living happily ever after in the ‘Twin Peaks’ house

Everett homeowners snagged a role in the recent reboot of the 1990s cult classic show.

Most Read