James H. Schutte
BRASSICA oleracea 'Red Peacock'( Acephala Group)
Plant Common Name
Ornamental Kale, Red Peacock Ornamental Kale
The lacy kales in the Peacock Series are planted almost exclusively as ornamentals, and 'Red Peacock' does not disappoint. Its finely dissected, lacy foliage is deep blue-green on the exterior of the rosette and purplish-red on the interior. The red color becomes more pronounced as temperatures grow cooler. It is a very popular landscape kale for the fall.
As beautiful as they are delicious, kale, collards, flowering cabbage, and the other vegetables in this group derive from Brassica oleracea, a fleshy-leaved short-lived perennial from the coastal areas of western and southern Europe. They are typically grown as annuals.
Plants in this group have open rosettes (rather than closed heads) of large, fleshy, waxy, edible leaves. Ornamental kales and ornamental cabbages bear many-leaved, chrysanthemum-like rosettes on short stems, whereas collards and culinary kales bear leaves individually on long stout stalks. Plants may produce sprays of four-petaled lemon yellow flowers on tall stems in spring or summer. Some cultivars are highly ornamental and may have pink, purple or variegated leaves that are sometimes deeply lobed, ruffled or curly.
These cool weather crops prefer full sun and fertile, organic-rich garden soil with ample drainage. Most are sown in the chill of early spring or in fall several weeks before first frost. Many taste better if harvested after frost. Tender young leaves can often be harvested for salads a month or so after sowing. Leaves typically mature about 2 months after sowing. Tougher and zestier than many other cabbage greens, mature leaves are usually best steamed or sauteed.
These wonderful, variable vegetables are generally easy to grow. Ornamental selections are beautiful in fall gardens and containers. They make ideal companions to asters, pansies and mums in the autumn garden, and violas and spring bulbs in late winter and spring. Tolerant of subfreezing temperatures, they will perish in severe cold. Ornamental cabbages and kales do best in cool weather, otherwise forming leggy relatively drab plants.