Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Container... Kale, Parsley, and Pansies.

In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty
Fall is a marvelous time to plant a container arrangement. There are many plants that not only survive the cold temperatures, but thrive on it. Among the most colorful is flowering or ornamental Kale.

Kale is among the oldest of the cultivated edible greens and has been a staple in the garden for centuries. A form of cabbage native to the wilderness of North America as well as all of northern Europe, it added a much welcome green and leafy vegetable to dinner tables and soup pots all winter. The ornamental Kale is edible but does not form the tight center ball common in cabbage. The flavor of the leaves becomes sweeter when exposed to frost.

Exceedingly popular today, it arrives at the nursery sporting a multitude of interesting ruffled leaf combinations, from spires to tight rosettes. Kale is round, dense and slow growing, making it a easy to contain. One of it’s most impressive attributes is the fact that the colors deepen as the temperature dips. Meaning the bright white, vivid greens, purple, burgundy, blues and variegated colors become more lovely as the winter deepens.

It should be noted that the most intense color is located at the center of the plant where the outer leaves obstruct them unless they are viewed from directly overhead. With this fact in mind, they may be planted at an angle in the container or on a slight slope in the landscape so they may be appreciated from a distance.

If one adds some parsley, with it’s clear vibrant green and curled leafy texture, the contrast is striking. Parsley is mentioned often throughout history, and not only for its culinary and medicinal properties. The early Greeks made crowns of parsley to bestow upon the winners their athletic games and it is used in the Hebrew celebration of Passover as a symbol of spring and rebirth. It is mentioned as one of the plants in the gardens of Charlemagne and Catherine de Medici. In medieval times parsley was surrounded by much superstition due to the germination of the seeds. One belief claimed that the extremely long germination period existed because they traveled to hell and back seven times before sprouting. Naturally superstitious farmers were afraid to grow it.

Add a sprinkling of low-growing, brightly colored pansies to the outmost edge of the container and the entire ‘arrangement’ will present a composition worthy an Old Master’s painting.

*Note: Unfortunately, all chickens and Peafowl enjoy Kale as a snack
making it impossible to grow if poultry is present.