Califonia Bountiful

A couple and their kale

Jan./Feb. 2009 California Country magazine

At Repetto's Nursery, flowering kale is grown strictly for its looks.

Cut flowers are virtually guaranteed to bring a smile to someone’s face. Few, however, will actually generate chuckles. But that’s often the case when customers catch their first glimpse of flowering kale, one of about 40 cut flower choices at Repetto’s Nursery and Florist in Half Moon Bay.

“It looks like a vegetable,” said David Repetto. “People get a kick out of it.”

He is quick to point out that the plant—with its cabbage contours and ruffled, multicolored leaves—is a member of the kale family, so it truly is a vegetable. The variety featured at his flower shop, however, is grown strictly for its looks. And while edible, it’s not nearly as tasty as the kind typically served steamed or in soup.

Flowering kale adds a unique texture to arrangements, according to David’s wife and business partner, Kathie.

“It looks especially nice in those compact arrangements, like bubble bowls or the square vases where the flowers are the same height,” she said. “Kale is a good conversation piece. Everybody goes, ‘What is that?’ It has nice color—the green with a little bit of purple in it.”

Repetto’s Nursery and Florist is one of about two dozen flower growers in San Mateo County, where plants and flowers are by far the top agricultural crop.

“We grow a lot of sunflowers, a lot of dahlias,” David said. “Also delphiniums, scabiosas, statice, baby’s breath, amaryllis, lilies, amaranthus, kale—a little bit of a lot of things.”

Begun in 1955 as a vegetable and flower farm, the third-generation family business today encompasses 7 acres of greenhouses, more than 100 acres of fields and a converted packing shed where cut flowers, live plants, floral arrangements and a variety of gift items attract locals and tourists alike. The Repettos have about 25 full-time employees.

“The flower business is challenging and the hours are long, but it’s rewarding when you see people coming in and buying flowers,” Kathie said. “That’s the biggest payoff, because you don’t get rich doing it. There has to be some love there. But hopefully you can make payroll for the week and do it again the next week.”

Barbara Arciero is a reporter for the California Farm Bureau Federation. She can be reached at 800-698-FARM or

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