Who says vegetables can’t be ornamental? They can be borderline stars.
Every year, I try something different with the long bed that lines our front path. Last year, I got a little wacky and used vegetables: kale and cardoon (vegetables related to the artichoke). At the end of the year, I was very happy with how it looked when the cardoons were putting out their tufty pink flowers and the red kale was 4-5 feet tall.
Is the perennial plant artichoke and cardoon?
Artichokes and cardoons are perennial plants from zone 5 and up. They are cold hardy down to 25F (-4C). However, they do not appreciate high temperatures either. The plants will lose their vigor for central Texas gardeners once the heat settles, but they will send out new shoots in the fall.
Artichokes and cardoons can be easily grown from seed. However, they need about 60 days for the seedling to be ready for transplanting. To plant in October, you should start the seeds in mid-summer, July through August. And then, you will have to wait a year or two to get a vigorous plant.
Collards and Kale
When a healthy collard hits, it spreads to become a fairly large bush. I have grown plants 6 feet tall, and just as wide. Plants produce lots of small, tasty leaves, but the stars of the loop collar are their sprouts, flowers, and young seed pods. Collard buds are the sweetest of the brassicas (I prefer them to broccoli), and the flowers are gorgeous. A large plant in full bloom is a great bee magnet.
Collard seed pods are my favorite lifetime gardening discovery. Tender selections, they are a ring to the best French haricots vert. Like string beans, they can be boiled whole and served with melted butter. I also like to fry them in very hot olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and serve as an accompaniment. They get tight if left too long, so be careful. For me, collard seed pods are an archetypal home vegetable — something delicious that can’t be bought.
A few months ago I collected huckleberry seeds from my huckleberry plant and planted them. As expected, they haven’t grown yet. They weren’t expected to leave, at least not until they were “stratified.”
Like artichokes, huckleberry (Gaylussaccia baccata) needs to feel that winter is over, in this case before its seeds come. Stratification, as this cold exposure is called, prevents small seedlings from being killed by winter cold after sprouting in late summer or autumn.
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