ADDICTION CAN BE A GOOD THING
WHY I LOVE THIS PLANT
- Every color of the rainbow.
- Growth from one foot to eight feet tall and wide.
- Drought tolerant.
- Looks great when pruned once a year.
- Varieties available for both sun and shade.
- Wildly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.
- As sweetly fragrant as the coastline breeze.
- Easy to propagate from rootlings.
- Just so damn gorgeous!
In her wonderful book, The New Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden,author Betsy Clebsch says “Salvia is derived from the latin word salvare, "to heal." For centuries, it has been used medicinally. Commonly known as sage, it occurs in all forms, from perennial bushes to annual culinary herbs.
Salvia has only one request -- well drained soil. The perennial varieties spread rapidly underground, and can fill an entire garden bed if left unchecked. But its easy to tug them up and transplant to another area, or give to other gardens.
The pitcher shaped flowers are absolutely guaranteed to bring hummingbirds into your garden.
Salvia is related to mint, and its foliage has an herbal, spicy scent. One variety in particular, Salvia clevelandii (Musk sage) is common along the California coast, and will waft its clean sweet/salty perfume across an entire garden. Dried, the branches are a great potpourri. One varietal in particular, S. clevelandii 'Winifred Gilman' (pictured above) is particularly sweet scented, and its flowers are a deep indigo blue.
Here are some of my favorites (in addition to the foresaid Clevelandii:)
- S. chiapensis : (Chiapas sage, from the Mexican rain forest) Magenta pink flowers, takes shade, flowers all year long. This also grows well in pots, and I always keep one next to my patio sliding doors, to watch the hummingbirds feed from it throughout the day.
- S. pratensis : (Meadow sage) A low growing, deep purple flowered sage. Perennial, though it dies back in winter. Super border plant.
- S. apiana : (Bee sage) A highly fragrant, slightly sprawling salvia with silver fuzzy leaves and a white flower. Dried, it is an exellent incense and is the traditional 'smudging' sage.
- S. greggii : (Autumn sage) Thriving in warmer climates, this salvia, which comes in a full range of color, creates solid waves of long blooming color in the garden. Lightly fragrant, it is especially attractive to hummingbirds.
- S. elegans : (Pineapple sage) Grown best as an annual, this sage combines an unusual chartreuse/bright red color combination with leaves that smell just like pineapple. If you don't want to commit to a perennial, this fast growing salvia is perfect for attracting hummingbirds in summer.
S. Waverly : (Waverly sage) A half-hardy shrub to five feet tall with pale lavender and cream flowers all year round. Cut back hard in fall, it will grow back to full size within a couple of months. With full, dark green foliage, this plant is a great space filler in a cottage or coastal garden.
S. leucantha : (Mexican Bush sage) If you want a swathe of bright purple in your garden, this salvia can't be topped. It flowers all through summer and fall, with long, velvety branches of blossom. Another hummingbird favorite For a smaller garden, the 'Santa Barbara' dwarf variety is best.
- S.guarantica : (Big Blue sage) : A garden superstar! at six to eight feet with deeply saturated indigo flowers. It looks great when underplanted with billowy plants such as Artemesia, Yarrow, or the chartreuse S. elegans
And for you fans of Food Porn, you simply cannot forego culinary sage, S. officinalis . Think of me fondly when you're eating lightly toasted sage leaves tossed on buttered Portabella mushroom ravioli.