Felder’s Colorful Kale
Time to move on. Thin past dragging hoses, and plan, if not actually plant, for the next season. I’m starting to push through the chore of cleaning up the summer’s frustrations, and setting out spring bulbs topped with cold-hardy flowering annuals.
Because I hate having to empty my beds and containers too early of still-performing summer flowers, I’m getting a head start on fall and winter by lightly working up pockets of soil between the older stuff; by digging in the old mulch along with a little compost and a tablespoon of fertilizer, tucking in and mulching a few early fall flowers, I’ll have something already in bloom when the faded summer stuff finally gets pulled.
Though my main squeezes for winter color include pansies, violas, and hybrid panolas, I tuck in a few sweet williams and other dianthus, emerald green parsley, and few clumps of snapdragons, colorful kales, and pale gray dusty miller. Some pots of colorful lettuces, maybe another gamble on burgundy mustard. There are others, of course, but these are all fairly readily available most everywhere in the state.
Kale, on top of being a freeze-hardy superfood, is my biggest splash. Different varieties of the big blousy plants can be smooth, curly, ruffled, and sharply tooth-edged, and solid green, burgundy, nearly black purple, and - my favorite of all - the nearly blue one named lacinato, often called Tuscan blue or dinosaur kale because of its bumpy texture.
And by the way, being a lazy cheapskate who wants the most bang for my bucks and effort, I don’t plant a lot of any of these in one place; instead, in both my front and back gardens I have three smallish beds and two groups of large containers, which when planted alike work together visually to make it all seem more 3D floriferous, without extra expense and maintenance.
To further ease the hard transition from summer to winter, I keep half a dozen medium size containers in my potting shed, which I will plant now and when the faded summer stuff finally needs hauling to the compost pile, I already have full pots of winter flowers ready to rotate into their spots.
But here’re a few heads-up words about hardy winter and spring bulbs. After over half a century of tending reliable heirlooms, playing around with lesser-known new treasures, and throwing in a handful of known one-shot wonders (tulips come to mind), I have a simple system: Keep the dependably undependable ones in containers or in small areas for accent, but plant mostly what we know will thrive for years with little or no care.
Biggest mistake I see newbie bulb gardeners make is planting big bagsful of varieties that may not be good fit for our climate. After helping my great-grandmother with her 350 or so different Narcissus/daffodils, and growing several dozen myself, I can assure you that only a few will flower dependably for years to come.
These are the ones you see around old home sites and along highways, which with the help of other bulb enthusiasts we can name, and buy accordingly. I’m talking assorted paperwhites which can flower in late December, fragrant jonquils, lent lily, Campernelle, Carlton, Tete a Tete, twin sisters (the latest bloomer), and a couple dozen others that flower for decades with zero care.
Throw in Spanish bluebells, elephant garlic, snowflake (Leucojum, mistakenly called snowdrop), starflower (Ipheion), amaryllis, grape hyacinth…I have a list of them all, if you want to email me for it. Order some soon, which is a good start. Winter will be here before you know it.