On a trip to France a few years ago, we visited the remarkable Villandry gardens in the Loire Valley. What stood out for me, amongst the many other wonders in this, the world’s largest jardin potager, was the spectacular ornamental kale. Row upon manicured row of this beautiful vegetable, curated into an art form amongst a sea of other vegetables elevated from the vege patch to the catwalk! So I have ordered lots of it for The Potting Shed – knowing that whatever doesn’t sell will go straight into the garden at home. One fellow enthusiast came in today and snaffled a tray full, so if you’d like some seedlings to add panache to your garden this winter, be quick. I have a feeling they won’t last long! I’m also looking for ornamental cabbage which I saw in many villages in France in Autumn (see picture at bottom) which is another lovely accent plant for the cooler months. I’ll let you know when I have it in stock.
Culture Ornamental Kale is easily grown in organically rich, consistently moist, well-drained loams in full sun. It’s a frost hardy plant that needs cool temperatures to produce best leaf colors. Here in the Highlands they are best grown in the cool temperatures of autumn, but may also be grown in early spring. If grown in summer (and they will), plants will need some afternoon shade to survive, but the foliage will not be as spectacular. Plants also look fantastic grown in containers as is often seen in France.
Noteworthy Characteristics Brassica oleracea (Capitata Group), commonly known as cabbage, and Brassica oleracea(Acephala Group), commonly known as kale, are cool weather vegetables that are grown for harvest of their edible leaves. Cabbage forms heads and kale forms upright leaves. By contrast, ornamental cabbages and kales are grown primarily as foliage plants for their intensely coloured leaves rather than as vegetables. Ornamental plants were developed for ornamental use without regard to taste. Ornamental cabbage typically develops large rosettes of broad flat leaves and ornamental kale typically develops curly, ruffled leaves in a tight rosette. Leaf colors are usually quite showy, including white/cream, pink, rose, red and purple. Plants will grow to 12-18” tall and need the cool weather of spring or autumn to develop their best foliage color. As night temperatures drop during the autumn, the leaf color typically darkens and intensifies. Cabbage and kale are in the same species as a number of other cool season vegetables including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi.
Garden Uses Mass plantings. Border fronts. Edging. Containers. The colorful leaves make an attractive food garnish and if you pleach their trunks, they make great cut flowers.