Kale
PHOTOGRAPH BY CRYSTAL CARTIER/GETTY

Never Buy Kale Again!

Plant your favorite green alongside flowers in annual beds.

August 6, 2015

Annuals give us the chance to experiment with new planting combinations without having to live with our mistakes. If we try something and it works, that’s great and we can repeat it the following year; if not, we can try something different. After all, unlike shrubs and perennials, we replace annuals every year anyway. This is a combination I tried last year in my Pennsylvania garden, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.

In the front of the bed I planted one of the elegant new begonias derived from Begonia boliviensis that have been gaining traction in the last few years. I chose Million Kisses Romance (Yamance), with reddish salmon pink, four-petaled flowers. This type of begonia is more often grown in a basket or other container than in the ground, so I needed to support it discreetly with a few twigs.

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Behind it I planted curly kale. It's a very tough winter vegetable, but sow the seed in spring and it’s a dual-purpose summer foliage plant—after all, you can still pick a few leaves for the kitchen. Its blue-green crinkled leaves contrast well with the glossy fresh green begonia leaves and make a lovely background for the flowers.

Taller and farther back I planted Pineapple Queen coleus. The bright yellow foliage—with reddish marks at the base of each leaf, red veins, and (sometimes) red edges to the lobed leaves—contrasts in color with the kale yet harmonizes with the begonia flowers.

Take cuttings of the begonia and coleus for overwintering frost free—and when the frost has killed them, eat the kale!