By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, my garden looks like a 1930s black-and-white photo. That’s why I’m thrilled with the last beacons of color from the flowering kale that’s brighter now than when I planted it last spring. The leaves are a bit ragged around the edges (after all, we’ve had snow already!), and the plants are a little leggy, but the color is amazing: vivid pink and blue-green. A Technicolor touch in the monochromatic landscape.
Funny thing is, I’ve never been a fan of ornamental kale. They always seemed too gaudy and only appropriate for fall planting. Even when I found two plants, like stray kittens, sitting on a cart outside of my office last April with a sign saying “free plants,” I wasn’t tempted. Editor Luke Miller had used them as photo shoot props for a story in his magazine Garden Ideas and Outdoor Living. All day long people with spring on their minds passed by the small, orphaned kale. Finally as I was leaving for the day, I took pity on them, brought them home and poked them into an out-of-the-way corner in the garden.
As summer progressed, I turned a blind eye as cabbage looper caterpillars chewed lacy holes in their ruffled leaves. But somehow, the kale held their own. As summer turned to fall, and the rest of the garden faded from successive frosts, the kale got brighter, more vivid. And now those two orphaned kale are the last plants standing in my garden. And, I have to admit they are looking darn good.
So, I’ve made a note for next year’s planting list: plant kale in the spring for big fall color.