In the Garden column: Kale and cabbage color the fall and winter garden

Carole McCray
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Ornamental cabbage's pinks and purples color the fall and early winter landscape.

Plant ornamental kales and cabbages for texture and color in the fall and winter garden. I planted several varieties and placed them in containers, the garden and even a window box. Surprisingly, they weathered well in zone 7 and were not removed until early spring the following year.

The ornamental kale and cabbage are not grown for flavor, but when added to your autumn garden, they lend a decorative touch through the winter. Frilly, but not delicate, they survive the erratic weather patterns from late fall through the spring. The plants are showy and come in an array of colors. You will find them in shades of deep purple, pink, red and white. They are not heat-tolerant, but they can tolerate the cold, and can survive winter temperatures as low as 5 degrees F. The colors of ornamental kale and cabbage are made brighter when they experience light and moderate frosts.

Ornamental kales and cabbages complement so many other fall plants. Pair them with chrysanthemums, the russet sedums, fall pansies and asters to echo the palette of autumn’s rich tones. There are many possibilities for displaying kale and cabbage to brighten the fall and winter garden. Try grouping kale and cabbage in pots at an entryway, in window boxes with dwarf evergreens or planted in a large container in the garden to serve as an attractive accent.

The best time to purchase ornamental kales and cabbages is in September. Look for plants with a short rosette-type stem. To avoid plants becoming root-bound, purchase the largest plants available. If temperatures are not cool when planting, the plants can become leggy and lose their color. Often planting before cool weather will subject the plants to cabbage loopers that bore holes in the plants.

Striving for color in the winter months gives gardeners the opportunity to do just that with ornamental kales and cabbages.

Carole McCray resides in Cape May, New Jersey and is an award-winning garden writer who has been writing a monthly garden column, The Potting Shed, for regional newspapers for nearly 20 years. Her articles have been published in The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper, Coastal Living Magazine, Cape May Magazine, Growise Garden Guide and Ideals Magazine. She won the Garden Writer’s Association Award for newspaper writing for The Christian Science Monitor Newspaper.

Ornamental Kale Glamour Red displays a vivid intense color in the fall garden.