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Andreana Bitsis

Ask Ella: Why Ornamental Cabbage Will Make You Love Greens

Ask Ella is a reoccurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, Ella Stavonsky, about floral design– including the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight ornamental cabbage, whose varied hues and oddly familiar texture make it the pick of the patch.

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It’s no secret that Ella loves ornamental cabbage– it was one of the featured items of décor at our recent Botany Salon. Ornamental cabbage (Brassica oleracea— that same family that gave us ornamental kale) has been cultivated exclusively with regard to its showy foliage– typically rich purples and fresh greens, or some marriage of the two colors, which blend in with a creamy white. While ornamental cabbage can be eaten, it tends not to taste very good, so best let your eyes do the feasting.

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Andreana Bitsis

Used in bouquets, ornamental cabbage works well as a centering element, providing structure to larger arrangements with its flower-like appearance. “Don’t be afraid to open the cabbages with your hands,” Ella notes. “If the cabbage isn’t as open as you like, just gently press back the leaves, starting with the outer layers.” An easy way to build a bouquet around ornamental cabbage is to play off of the colors in the cabbage– use tuberose to accent delicate whites, ferns to highlight the light greens, or globe amaranth to complement the royal purples. Eucalyptus is also a safe bet when looking for a general filler flower, as GC illustrator Jessy Scarpone recently demonstrated with her bouquet of the week.

In bouquets, ornamental cabbage requires similar care to its edible cousin. “Change the water each day,” Ella emphasizes, in addition to giving the stalks a daily trim. “Gently pinch away any yellowing leaves at the base– removing as much as you can– so they don’t continue to take up water.”

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