If you're looking for ornamental plants that tough it out as the weather turns cooler, add ornamental cabbage and kale and some chrysanthemums to your garden. Depending on the winter weather conditions, they may come through the winter and look good into spring.
While strolling down Newtown's State Street this week, I noticed the combination of mums and kale, beautifully planted around the tree wells. The business district looks bright and colorful this fall, thanks to the efforts of the Newtown Fire Association who donated part of the proceeds from the Newtown Beerfest to beautify State Street.
"We decided to give back to our community by making State Street look more attractive with the colorful fall plantings," said Pat Foster, volunteer fire fighter, Beerfest committee member, and Newtown borough resident. "We plan to plant flowers in both the spring and fall to beautify the borough's business district."
The mums, cabbages and kale are excellent choices for fall plantings. These plants will stay crisp and colorful through the cooler weather that lies ahead. Apply mulch over the roots for added protection in your own garden.
Mums are popular for their brilliant colors and variety of shapes and sizes. They thrive in a sunny location in well-drained soil. If you plant them early in the season, their roots will become established and they will survive the winter. Many people treat them as annuals and don't realize that these perennials will return each year.
Next year, simply pinch off about two inches of new growth when the plants are about six inches tall, generally around Memorial Day and then again around the Fourth of July. You will get fuller, bushier plants with lots of flowers that bloom in the fall. If you forget to pinch them, you will get taller, less bushy plants that bloom earlier.
Cabbages and kale are in the cole crop family together with broccoli and cauliflower. Generally, we call round-leaved varieties ornamental cabbage, while the lacy-leafed varieties are referred to as kale. They survive temperatures down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the weather turns cooler, the leaves color up more. As the green chlorophyll in the leaves degrades, the underlying colors of pink, purple and white become more prominent after several weeks of cool weather.
These plants look great in containers or garden beds. Plant them in a sunny location with other cool-weather loving plants such as pansies and mums. Before planting, remove the ragged bottom leaves. Plant so that the crown of leaves is flush with the surface of the soil. The roots will grow along the buried stem.
While these plants are edible, you may find them a little bitter. If you are craving kale, your best bet is to find some at a farmers market or grocery store. Cook it up with a little olive oil—Chef Cheryl Gilmore from the Kids Cooking School in Newtown recommends massaging the leaves to tenderize them and to decrease the bitterness. Kale, a "superfood," is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and sulphur-containing compounds that have cancer-fighting properties. I enjoyed Gilmore's delicious recipe for kale salad—it will change your mind about kale.
Kale Salad Recipe
- a large bunch kale
- 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3 cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. good olive oil (The Tubby Olive Koroneiki is excellent, Gilmore noted.)
- and the juice of one lemon
- Rinse and dry the kale leaves. Shave the kale leaves away from the spine and discard the spines. Cut kale leaves as you would for a salad and place in salad bowl.
- Add a teaspoon of oil to a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the bread crumbs until golden brown, about three minutes. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, blend together garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice and whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste and mix well.
- Toss kale with breadcrumbs and coat with dressing. Mix and massage salad until dressing is incorporated.
Enjoy your colorful fall plantings and create a healthful fall salad this season.
Have you seen some attractive fall plantings? Do you have a favorite kale recipe? Tell us in the comments.