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.