It's undisputed--everyone loves flowers. But flowers are not the only way to introduce vibrant beauty into the landscape.
We would like to introduce you to a couple of beautiful and unique candidates to include in your flower garden this fall--ornamental cabbage and ornamental kale.
Ornamental cabbage and kale are related to the cabbage and kale we eat; in a pinch, you actually could eat the ornamental types even though they are not as tender and flavorful as their culinary cousins.
But what they lack in tastiness, they more than make up for in their beauty.
Even though they are sometimes referred to as flowering cabbage and flowering kale, it is their leaves that provide the color.
The arrangements of the leaves on both types form a flower-like rosette which lasts all through the cool season, unlike actual flowers.
Only when the weather begins to warm in the spring, do they produce flowers--you will notice the plant "stretching" and a vertical flower-stalk emerging from the center.
This is your signal that it is time to remove them and replace them with a warm-season annual.
Because of the plant's propensity to flower and set seed when the weather is warm, it is best to wait to plant it until you can be fairly certain that the weather has cooled off sufficiently in the fall.
The color of the foliage, which ranges from a mixture of purple, rosy-lavender and white, will become more and more vibrant as the weather gets cooler. You will notice the most vibrant colors after periods of frost.
You will also avoid having to deal with some of the pests common to the cabbage family (such as cabbage loopers) by postponing your planting until the weather has cooled.
While ornamental cabbage and kale can grow to a height and width of about 18", it is best to purchase larger plants that are about the size you would like them to stay. The reason for this is that if they are root-bound (which they quite often are in containers) they will not grow much larger.
Look for plants that are stocky and full rather than tall and narrow, with the color combinations that you like.
If you select a plant that fits all your requirements but has a "trunk" before the foliage begins, simply plant it deeper, up to the first set of leaves; ornamental cabbages and kales are among a very small group of plants that will tolerate having the soil level raised along the main stem.
What is the difference between ornamental cabbage and ornamental kale? The leaves of ornamental cabbage have smooth margins while ornamental kale has fringed or serrated leaves.
Pick whichever plants appeal to you, using all one type or mixing them for interest. You will get the most "bang for your buck", however, if you use them in groupings or mass plantings, rather than sporadically planted throughout the flower bed or lined up like soldiers.
If your flower bed has some depth to it, a great combination would be groupings of ornamental cabbage and/or ornamental kale with a foreground planting of pansies.
Container planting is another great use for these colorful plants.
In this instance, you can get away with using one plant as the main focal point in the pot, possibly surrounded by smaller annuals such as pansies, violas or dianthus.
Whether planting them in a container or in the ground, be sure to choose a sunny location that will receive regular water with good drainage. They prefer a slightly acidic soil, rich in organic matter.
Depending on the weather, ornamental cabbages and kales can last through the winter, only finally "giving up the ghost" as the weather warms in the spring.
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A classic example of contrarieties can be seen in pottery. It is both durable and fragile. Durable, in that it is capable of lasting for centuries--even millennia--as proven by the understandings we have achieved of long-dead civilizations based on the pottery that archeologists have found.
Fragile, in that with a single hammer blow a piece of pottery may be shattered into a thousand pieces, impossible to repair.
Container gardens have enjoyed a resurgence as of late; they make near-instant gardens for those who have limited space in which to garden, for apartment dwellers, and for those who love filling their outdoor living spaces with the variety offered by container gardens.
And the containers that we choose to showcase our plantings are every bit as important to the look and feel as are the plants.
Whether we're using ceramic, terra cotta, or clay pottery, or cast stone, fiberglass or plastic formed pots, we must care for our pots--as we care for our plants--during the cold months of winter.
During the warm season, try not to set your planters directly on dirt or mulched beds. And place 2-4" of porous stones or shards of clay pots in the bottom of the pot prior to filling with soil so as to prevent the soil from leaking out of the drainage holes, or clogging them. This will aid in extending the life of the pot.
When first purchasing your pottery, examine the benefits and detriments of the particular pot you're considering. If frost is a problem in your area, keep in mind that glazed pottery is even stronger than terra cotta, due to the type of clay used, and the extremely high firing temperature.
However, the outdoor saucers are not recommended for indoor use as condensation can build up on their outer surface when placed in a warm room. Some pottery is highly susceptible to cracks caused by moisture in the pot freezing; therefore, wintering them must be an automatic part of your fall readiness for the winter to come.
Clay pots are porous, made of natural materials, environmentally friendly, and with the innovative colors, designs, and shapes now available, an easy-to-care-for plus to brighten up any garden room.
Fiberglass and plastic pots are lightweight and durable, and many are cast in textures and patterns that simulate natural stone and terra cotta or ceramic pots, so very large or ornate containers are popular and less expensive options.
They need regular cleaning and care, but can be extremely durable if properly stored.
If you are not bringing your planted containers indoors to weather the winter months so that with the arrival of warm weather they can go back outside, then depending on the type of container, there are several methods of winter protection.
If you've planted annuals, the best way to guarantee that your clay, plastic, ceramic or fiberglass pots will be usable come spring is to empty them of soil, and thoroughly clean them with warm water and a sponge; a mild dishwashing detergent and a soft brush is useful if the stains and salt residue is significant.
Let the pots dry thoroughly, and place them upside down, preferably on a raised surface such as a plank.
If you have space in your garage to store them, all the better; if they must be outdoor inhabitants during the winter, after doing the above, cover them with a tarp or its equivalent. It's not the moisture itself that can destroy your pots, but the freezing of the moisture; thus, keeping them off of the ground is essential.
Being responsibly pro-active with the pots that have enhanced your outdoors all season long will ensure that you will be able to enjoy them for years to come.
Come see the wide variety of containers that we offer, and our specialists will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
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