Colewort (Crambe cordifolia) is one of the delights of the early summer garden. Its charm never diminishes. Every year, it is just as amazing to see its cloud of blooms as it was the previous summer. When the first shoots of its big, dark green leaves appear in the spring, they give no hint of what is to come. Indeed, the low-growing mass of rather rugged leaves, resembling a rhubarb plant, borders on ugly. But then something surprising happens. From this unprepossessing beginning, tall, graceful branches spring upward and produce an airy mass of tiny white flowers. The effect has been compared to a giant gypsophilia, Baby’s Breath on steroids!
The flowers are heavily scented and draw a host of pollinators. Each tiny flower has four petals and 6 stamens, identifying the plant as a member of the mustard or cabbage family, Brassicaceae. Its family connection to cabbage is suggested by its common name, cole…think coleslaw…and wort, an Old English word for flower: Cabbage Flower. Colewort is also known as Giant Sea Kale.
The basal leaves don’t require a lot of space, but its tall flower stalks, five feet tall and four feet wide, form an impressive crown. If you have a roomy spot available in your perennial bed, Crambe cordifolia is a worthwhile addition. It is a long-lived plant that you will enjoy year after year.