Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Cabbage Tree on a Mountainside

Ok, I can't believe I'm writing this, but today I'm joining Loree of Danger Garden for her Ornamental Cabbage and Kale Challenge. You can see her entry for the challenge here.

Like the infamous instigator of this challenge, I never cared much for ornamental cabbages or kales. To be honest, I still don't in general. However, the metallic purple ornamental cabbage at Pomarius Nursery is an exception to that rule, or at least one in particular. Apparently, it's merely the normal red ornamental cabbage. Something, probably the heat and drought, have enhanced the color to an otherworldly degree. This effect has been taken to extremes in one plant. I actually thought it was a succulent at first.

With such an unusual specimen to work with, I was inspired to participate in the challenge. I wanted to do something unexpected to match the bizarre plant. What could be more unpredictable than turning a cabbage into a tree?

For my entry, I created a penjing landscape. Similar to bonsai, penjing is the more ancient Chinese forerunner from which the art of bonsai was originally refined. Modern penjing are frequently designed as miniature landscapes (with multiple kinds of plants) in their own right, whereas bonsai are single trees (or groves of one type of tree) that evoke a landscape.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of the process, and some of the photos are a bit blurry. I assembled this in bits and pieces during spare moments at work and photographed the result with my phone. But you can see the metallic purple, dwarfed cabbage that inspired me to this mad creation.

I used a piece of lace rock, which is a porous stone and has holes and pockets of various sizes, perfect for mercilessly cramming rootballs into. Besides being used for cabbage penjing (and more commonly for bonsai and similar plantings) lacerock is frequently used in aquariums to simulate reefs.

I scavenged mosses growing naturally on the soil of larger plants at the nursery, selecting a type that grows in pillowy mounds and has a very fine texture. Some of the moss pieces also had a light green-grey lichen on it. On to the vascular plants, I broke up a clump of Saxifraga crustata and planted rosettes singly and in smaller clusters around the rock. A Cotula species (that I unfortunately have forgotten) looked ratty and terrible in a 4-inch pot. Place it at the base of a weird little cabbage on a craggy stone and it becomes a weathered, scraggly shrub on a mountainside. To echo the purple of the cabbage, I added a few clumps of Leptinella squallida 'Platt's Black'. They look a bit like Japanese painted ferns in miniature, don't you think? If Japanese painted ferns grew on a mountainside with cabbage trees, fern-leaved arctostaphylos, and any number of high-elevation, rosette-forming plants represented by the saxifrage. I ended up covering more of the stone than I had really intended. Funny how the space filled up so quickly. I did leave one particularly deep hole open, like a sinkhole or water-filled cave.


Here it is from one side. You can see the "trunk" of the cabbage tree a bit here. This angle really shows off the three-dimensional quality of the cotula, sprawling out in all directions with long, bare limbs.

And from the opposite side, a better view of the trunk and a bit more of the rocky "ledge."

So there you have it, a penjing cabbage. I never would have thought I'd ever make something like this, but I had fun doing it.

While I did create this using materials from Pomarius, Wes (one of the judges) had no influence in the design. Not that I think anyone would raise a stink over it, unless they're cooking their entry for the challenge. Just thought I'd cover my cabbage. 

26 comments:

  1. You are incredible, Evan. No reason for any of us to even think about competing with that. You win!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! But don't say that! Lot's of people should compete! Have fun with it!

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  2. OMG!!!! Evan this is so freaking fantastic...not even remotely something I ever thought I would see. Love it. So did you bring it home or is it on display at Pomarius? Are you going to let someone buy it? Nice work!

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    1. Why, thank you, Loree! It is on display at Pomarius, and someone was even interested in buying it, but they thought it was made up of houseplants.

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  3. Damn! That is super-fantastic cool. Love the artistry. Even when the cabbage goes south, it will be pretty amazing if you keep it going. I am inspired to look for lace rock and try some Penjing-ing! :)

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    1. Thank you! I love bonsai and penjing. I want to get some lace rock of my own, too. I only borrowed this piece to use for the challenge.

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  4. Fantastic creation there! And that cabbage looks more like an Echeveria!

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    1. Thanks! I thought the same at first, that it was some sort of succulent.

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  5. Very creative, and that color is so unique!

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    1. Thank you, Alan. It's the oddest little cabbage I've ever seen. Maybe I should pay more attention to them.

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  6. This challenge obviously spoke to your creative side...and informative, to boot.

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    1. I was inspired by an odd little cabbage and a piece of rock. I've had an interest in bonsai and penjing for years. Would love to do more, but I've moved around too much lately to have any, much less train any myself.

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  7. I can't believe you went for it but I must say I'm impressed!

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    1. Hehe, thanks, Kris. I can't believe it, either.

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  8. An amazing display, Evan, it makes me think of the luxuriant growth by a waterfall. It would make a good island to be visited by a boat in the Life of Pi movie, with all the varied fine-textured plants, growing in the shade of the marvelous silvery-purple cabbage tree.

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    1. Thanks, Hannah. I like the picture you paint from these photos.

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  9. That's fantastic. I was thinking Cussonia but when you said "cabbage" you meant "cabbage".

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    1. Hehe, yep. I was hoping someone would fall for the play on plant names.

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  10. OMG - that is so cool! I love the idea AND the execution. And, I bet you had a lot of fun creating this marvel. Well done, Evan!

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    1. I had so much fun! I haven't done any arrangements like this for a long time; never with a cabbage. Thanks, Anna!

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  11. What an amazing display - I really love the specimen and the whole of the penjing landscape - well done!

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    1. Thank you so much! It was really fun to create.

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  12. This is very imaginative and artful. I love it. You raised the bar for this competition!

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    1. Thank you, Chav! I hope I didn't scare people off from participating. That wouldn't be any fun.

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  13. I'm in love with this !!! I've not heard of penjing until today! Brilliant! And so gorgeous. ❤️ Inspiring!

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    1. Thank you, Susan! And congratulations on winning! You're arrangement was so elegant.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing what readers think and answering questions. I also welcome suggestions for improvement!