The anticipation of fall and the colorful beauty that the season brings gets most of us out taking mountain drives and purchasing pumpkins and colorful chrysanthemums to decorate our homes. There is another wonderful plant that can be purchased now that delivers big, fat texture and bold hues to our fall and winter landscapes.
Ornamental kale belongs to the cabbage family and it is purely decorative. Its leaves are heavily fringed and the foliage has an attractive curled texture.
Colors range from blue-white to a rosy purple. Kale is a cool season annual; it will grow fast and can become tall. It pairs well with pansies, violas and snapdragons.
Use the ornamental in window boxes and pair them with winter annuals to make a colorful focal point.
Choosing one color and variety will create the best show. Look for the Nagoya Series kale, which has ruffled leaves and a tight rosette of color in the center. Its shape is wide and round and it makes a nice mound of color. It can be used in small and large containers for combination planting.
Another variety is the Peacock Series kale, which has an upright growth habit and beautifully colored fringed leaves. This kale has loosely clustered foliage that comes in shades of purple-red or white.
When paired with miniature evergreens or cypresses, the type of kale softens and complements the arrangement for a more whimsical look.
Ornamental kale is a great addition to fall planters. Make sure the plants have a minimum of four hours of direct sun each day. Plant them in well-drained soil with good air circulation.
When planting in masses, the foliage may tend to overlap which makes the lower leaves moldy and wet.
Check on them weekly and remove the damaged foliage underneath to keep the plant dry and healthy.
You can purchase ornamental kale in pot ranging from 4 to 8 inches. Buy smaller containers for combination planting or purchase larger ones if you want to show off the plant alone. Purchase containers that complement the cool colors such as blues, gray or black. Decorate your porches, driveways and patios with your own creative arrangements.
The cool crisp nights and clear fall days will enhance the lush, vibrant color to this sturdy winter annual and bring enjoyment to the observer through the colder months ahead.
Look for these ornamentals at garden centers, nurseries and roadside stands.
Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office; phone, 770-535-8293.