Kales, Cabbages & Mustards

Rcabbageegular readers of our Field Notes know that we like form and texture as much as color. This time of year, when the nights start to get cold, we turn to cabbages, kales and mustards—their colors intensify with the onset of fall.

Ornamental cabbages have been around for a while, but we find a lot of interesting shapes when we look beyond them. Here is an example of a single burgundy red running across three types of ornamentals:   


Ornamental Kale ‘Red Bor’ (top)—heavy and tight frills of heavy red
Ornamental Kale ‘Peacock Red’ (left)—heavy, but open frills of light red
Ornamental Mustard ‘Red Giant’ (right)—big broad leaves of heavy red

Kales, cabbages and mustards run the gambit from burgundies to greens to an occasional white variety, so form and texture are the big sell for these crops. Since they have big, showy presence, a few of them go a long way as centerpieces, displays or in the garden bed.


‘Glamour Red’ has a striking dark eye surrounded by crisp open greens. Planted en masse, it has a polka-dot effect, but we like to lay a carpet of burgundy pansies at its feet to highlight the center of the kale. This variety has less wax on the leaves, so the colors come out more intensely.


For contrast, we grow ‘Nagoya White’. Its pure, clean texture is devoid of red, so it’s useful when you want to cover the bed with a consistent pattern or showcase the other drama kales. At the beginning of the season, the center is green; later on, it turns an albino white.


For a full-bodied red, we like the ‘Osaka Rose’. It's a cabbage rather than a kale, but it is a small nuance in name. This variety has broader leaves, deeper reds and less ruffling on the edges.