Container plants in fall (Google / The Globe Gazette)

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http://globegazette.com/features/container-plants-can-thrive-in-fall-weather/article_e3e2e5a6-f5e3-11e0-9fb8-001cc4c03286.html

Container plants can thrive in fall weather

By Jan Riggenbach For The Globe Gazette

In autumn, some container plants look good enough to eat. And some really are.

Brightly colored ornamental kale — often called flowering kale — is a mainstay in outdoor containers in fall and makes an attractive garnish, but is not a taste treat. Other kale varieties developed primarily for flavor can also play a supporting role in cold-hardy combos.

There is, for example, Starbor kale, which grows about 18 inches tall and has finely-curled, blue-green leaves. And Winter Red, an even bigger kale with pretty purple veins and red-tinged leaves after a frost.

Far from harming kale, cold autumn weather makes it taste better, whether served raw in salads or lightly steamed.

Mustards are cold-hardy, too, and work equally well in autumn containers or in the salad bowl. Some varieties are plain green but others are quite colorful. There’s Garnet Giant, for example, which has deep-maroon leaves. Ruby Streaks and Golden Streaks are a duo that offer contrasting maroon and chartreuse, both with deeply serrated leaves.

Swiss chard is another possibility for a container plant that is both ornamental and edible. The most colorful variety of all is Bright Lights, with stems in a rainbow of colors that includes gold, orange, pink, purple, red and white. The crinkled, dark-green leaves are also attractive.

Young chard leaves taste great in salads, while larger chard leaves lightly steamed make a good substitute for spinach. The stalks, too, can be served lightly steamed. They have a mellow flavor like a mild asparagus.

Many herbs, including parsley, thyme, sage and oregano, remain attractive throughout autumn. I’m particularly fond of Tricolor sage, with foliage that develops increasing amounts of pink, purple and white coloring in cold weather.

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.