Brassica rising

Cabbage in flower bedAs much as I loathe seeing Halloween candy already lining grocery store shelves, I love the flip-side to putting autumn in overdrive–finding cool weather plants that take over garden beds and containers with all the subtly of a Mac truck. Great big orange domes of neatly clipped chrysanthemums lining a front walkway. Constellations of purple asters plunked, pot and all, into the widening gaps of a spent summer flower bed.

My favourite If-I-see-this-it-must-be-fall plants are ornamental cabbages and kale. The Brassica oleracea group is easy to grow in full sun (you would’ve had to plunk seeds in the ground back in July) but with plenty of colourful, full-sized, locally-grown varieties available at garden nurseries (and grocery stores, for that matter), why not indulge in some instant fall colour? Ornamental kale and cabbages are a good investment for the fall garden because they can stand up to frost, keeping colour and texture in a flower bed long after other bloomers have given up.

Keep an eye out for Dinosaur Kale, also known as Lacinato or Black Tuscan Heirloom Kale. For that special prehistoric look, you can’t go wrong with a couple of these 3-foot-tall monsters. Check out the selection at Nova Scotia-based Incredible Seeds.

Shopper’s tips:

  • The potted kale and cabbage ornamentals on sale now have most likely reached their maximum size. Chances are they’re root bound meaning that they aren’t going to grow any bigger. So shop for plants that are the right size for your container.
  • Growing your own gorgeous kale and cabbage from seed ensures you’ll have an eye-catching fall garden with plants that are good to eat and good for you. Unless labelled otherwise, don’t assume that store-bought fully grown ornamental kales or cabbages are safe to eat.

Here are some examples of ornamental kale and cabbages used in gorgeous, and sometimes unusual ways. Click on any photo to start the slideshow.

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