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Tropicals and Cabbage in Bed Together – How My Dream of Alton Brown Inspired Garden Art Design

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Canna mixed with cabbage and other tropicals in Shawna Coronado's front lawn vegetable garden.

One night I am laying in my warm, soft, bed dreaming. I am sitting on a sandy beach in Hawaii. In front of me is the ocean; waves dance along the shore, ocean birds pick at the sand, and Alton Brown is walking the beach in a rather revealing man-thong (don’t ask – I have no idea where this is coming from). Behind me is the jungle. There are banana trees, canna lilies, colocasia, and coconut palms lining the edge of the tropical beach. Sitting in the sand next to me is my favorite cocktail: a tall, icy Jack and Diet with lime. In my hand is a steaming bowl of flavorful cabbage soup which Alton Brown has prepared for me because everyone knows how fan-damn-tastic Alton Brown’s cabbage soup is (somehow this makes perfect sense in my dream). I am sipping, both the soup and the cocktail, and smiling. My hair is ruffled in the wind as the ocean breeze moves through the jungle plants and I get the distinct feeling of happiness and joy. In fact, I distantly hear celestial choirs singing. It. Is. Good.

Next morning I wake up, sit straight up in bed, and shout “EUREKA! I AM A MAD GENIUS!!!” Next thing you know I got me the most amazing plant display of my life and it is right in my front lawn vegetable garden: TROPICALS and GIANT CABBAGE. Inspired by Hawaii, Jack Daniels, and a be-thonged Alton Brown (anyone have a picture of this? I’m just asking..), this has turned out to be the best crazy “I Love Lucy” garden idea yet.

July cabbages and tropical plants in Shawna Coronado's front lawn vegetable garden.
Shawna Coronado's garden.

Tropicals and Giant Cabbage

Why I love the combination of cabbage and tropicals so much is the COLOR. Chartreuse green of the colocasia contrasts with the gray-blue green of the cabbage for a splash of amazing color. Then those colors contrast with the burgundy leaves of the canna for an eye-shocking delight. Watching this garden grow made my eyes happy; it was like art growing in my front lawn vegetable garden.


  1. First thing you need to do is make sure your soil will support your tropicals and cabbages. I added Organic Mechanics soil, mixed with rotted manure and Worm Castings to my soil. For more details on how my garden did so well this season in a drought, go HERE.
  2. Go out and get yourself some giant cabbage. I found mine through Bonnie Plants.
  3. Now you need the tropicals – I got these from Plants Nouveau.  In the photos for this garden bed you see Canna Peach Sparkler (top photo), Canna Blueberry Sparkler with cabbage (next photo), Colocasia Red-Eyed Gecko (above photo), Canna Blueberry Sparkler with hummingbird (below), and Canna Peach Sparkler and Canna Blueberry Sparkler (bottom photo).
  4. Randomly plant them in a bed without any rhyme or reason – just go crazy with the arrangement. I fertilized twice in the season with Jobes All-Purpose Organic Fertilizer.
  5. Water and do regular “rain dances” to encourage more water.

One thing about tropicals you should know; they love rain water. No matter how often I hand watered them, it did no good for big growth – they would remain at a stand still. One strong rain and the plants would grow 6 inches in a night. It was astounding. My problem? We had an extreme drought through the summer, so the plants did not explode into growth until very late in the season.

One of the joys of having Canna in the front lawn garden is the heavy influx of hummingbirds (see photo below of  Canna Blueberry Sparkler with hummingbird). They love the flowers, particularly first thing in the morning. They spend an hour every day humming around the canna’s, occasionally stopping off at a hosta or two. In the bottom photo you see my giant head next to one of the smaller cabbages (and I seriously have an extra large head, I was always teased for being “the big headed kid”). This gives you a perspective on how large giant cabbage REALLY are – they are at least 3 feet wide, with the heads weighing up to 50 pounds.

Shawna Coronado with tropicals and giant cabbage in her garden.

Tropicals and Giant Cabbage

Special Note – Because the FTC requires it, I am letting you know that Plants Nouveau, Brian’s Botanicals,  Jobes Organic Fertilizer,  Bonnie Plants, Organic Mechanics Soil, Midwest Trading, and Natural Industries supplied the plants, mulch, soil, and soil additives I used in this garden. I have used their products because I WOULD even if they had not given the products to me and they have produced great success. I donate a large portion of the vegetables I grow in my soil-improved garden to the local food pantry when harvested. All opinions are my own!

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