November 29, 2010

Late autumn glory

In my quest to capture better shots of the Star Magnolia buds, I happened across this spectacular plant:

Ornamental Kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) is in its glory now. I’ve never grown it myself, but I’ve always been impressed with how it survives here through November, and often through December. Some gardeners in the Deep South report that it stays colorful all winter. I am envious!

The Wisconsin Master Gardener Program reports that all “ornamental” Kales and Cabbages are really Kale. The plants don’t have much color until the temperatures plummet. The bright pigments really begin to show with frost and cold weatherproducing spectacular, vivid colors below 50°F.

Once acclimated, Ornamental Kales can survive temperatures as low as 5°F. Since I haven’t grown them myself, I can’t offer much advice about how to plant and nurture Ornamental Kales. But I do know they look lovely interplanted with Pansies, Snapdragons, Mums, ornamental grasses, and other annuals and perennials that thrive in cooler weather. I really must plant some Kale next September to brighten the autumn and early winter landscape.

Meanwhile, that Star Magnolia is another spectacular specimen I’ve never tended myself, but I absolutely adore it when it blossoms in springtime. I did manage to get a few decent close-ups of those incredible fuzzy buds:


  1. Hi Beth! Greetings from an ex-Wisconsinite :-)
    I now live in Texas and I can attest that the ornamental kales do very well in our mild winters. I knew they could take it cold, but I didn't realize they could survive down to 5 degrees because it rarely gets that cold here (Yea!!! I don't miss WI's frigid winters). I plant them with pansies, dianthus, or dusty miller for color all winter long. We plant around October, and they will last all the way until late March, early April when it gets too warm and they start to bolt. Then it's time to change out the annuals and put in plants that can handle the blistering heat of summer (I do miss WI's mild summers!)

  2. Wow! That kale sure is a stunner. I've never grown them either (though I've grown lots of garden-variety kale). I tend to wonder how they taste when I see them -- can you imagine that magenta on your salad plate?

    Now I'll have to resist "testing" some of my neighbor's bedding plants...

  3. I have never seen such a beautiful kale. Anyway, most of your winter blooms will not be possible here in the equatorial tropics, so this is indeed nice. If you didn't say it is a Star Magnolia, I'd thought it is a pussy willow.

  4. Toni: I envy you now, but I'll be happy again in April - November.

    Eliza: That would be an interesting salad!

    Autumn Belle: Yes, the buds do look like pussy willows - but on a tree!

  5. I would like to get a really good shot of a star magnolia tree full of buds or at least a large swathe of branches and buds. I haven't been successful yet, but you have inspired me to keep trying. Carolyn

  6. mania: Thank you!

    Carolyn: I agree. Capturing the full effect of the tree, brimming with plump, fertile buds is tough. It's hard to describe, too. Can't wait to see it blooming in the springtime!