A Brassica moment

On the same day that I walked by the White House, I visited the Smithsonian Institution’s Heirloom Garden at the American History Museum and its Butterfly Garden beside the Natural History Museum to see how they look in early spring.

In both, the SI gardeners were putting forward Brassicas — ornamental kale, cabbage, and red mustard.

In the American History Museum entrance planter, yellow predominates, not from forsythia, but from the flowers of ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) and red mustard (Brassica juncea). Here’s the link to how it was planted last summer.

Now it’s filled with dusty miller, violas, and two Brassicas. I did not see any labels, but I’m pretty sure that the lacy white one on the sides is B. oleracea ‘Peacock White’  and the other one with light purple/light green leaves in the center is B. juncea ‘Red (or Ruby) Streaks,’ a mustard mizuna.

The museum’s big blue pots are also planted in purple kale (I think it may be B. oleracea ‘Peacock Red’) and violas. (You can click on any photo to enlarge it.)

At the Mall entrance to the Butterfly Garden, below, various Brassicas stood out, along with yellow tulips and violas.

These photos show ruffled dark purple B. oleracea ‘Redbor,’ as well as (I think) ‘Garnet Giant’ red mustard (in the center above) and Johnnie jump-up violas.  The lacy light-purple/light-green plant is B. juncea ‘Red (or Ruby) Streaks.’

I think the tall, dark blue-green kale in the foreground below is dinosaur kale, maybe ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero.’  Unfortunately, it was not labeled.

Below are ‘White Peacock’ kale.

I didn’t find a label for the very dark purple kale below.  They may be ‘Redbors’ that are just more mature and darker than the other specimens.

The cabbages in the front of the bed below are ‘Red Drumhead,’ with a row of dinosaur kale behind them.

At the entrance are more dinosaur kale.  Here’s the link to what they looked like last summer.

Here and here are some links to growing ornamental kale.

To scroll through larger versions of all the photos above, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then on the first thumbnail in the gallery.

ADDENDUM: In Paris, in March, I spotted some lovely flower beds on the Champs Elysees planted only with various-colored primroses and regularly interspersed tall flowering ornamental kale (something like B. oleracea ‘Redbor’). Unfortunately, I was on a bus and couldn’t get a picture.

2 thoughts on “A Brassica moment

    1. I liked the use of the kale and mustard in settings that were in between formal and naturalistic. And the late winter color was nice. Of course, I do remember embracing the ornamental cabbage craze of the late 80s, in my early days of gardening. I grew two (that was what I got out of a whole package of seeds) by the back door in Madagascar, although it wasn’t really cold enough there to get good color. My housekeeper couldn’t understand 1) why cabbages were in the flower bed, and 2) why I never picked and ate them.

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