Sages Are Wise Garden Choices

Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips'

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’

If you were restricted in your garden design choices to nothing but sages, you could still easily have the most memorable garden in town.
There are 900 sages (Salvia species) to choose from and many of them are perennials that bloom for months, with flower stems that are often more than a foot long with dozens of flowers adorning each stem.
Flowers are typically lavender, blue, purple, pink or red, but you can find just about any other color. The vast majority of salvia species are indigenous to Mexico and Central America, but lots of species are native to Europe and Asia, too. The word salvia is taken from salvere, a Latin word that connotes both saving and healing.
From the time of the Romans, there are records that common sage (Salvia officinalis), the sage used in cooking, was effective in treating a broad spectrum of medical disorders, especially skin conditions as the plant has anti-fungal properties. Modern research shows that common sage may be effective in preventing heart disease, boosting the immune system and combating Alzheimer’s disease.
Not long ago, I saw a salvia I had never seen before. It was a variety of mealy cup sage (Salvia farinacea), most likely a cultivar called ‘Strata’ or ‘Victoria Blue.’ Mealy cup sage derives its name from the mealy covering on its flower buds. The species name is derived from farina, the Latin word for flour.
In the planting that I encountered, this mealiness was so pronounced that the overall color impression of the salvia bed was silvery gray and blue.
Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Blue,’ a widely available cultivar, is a hybrid between mealy cup sage and a salvia that grows in Mexico at an elevation of 6,000 feet. Thus, ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ is cold tolerant and will handle temperatures as low as 10 degrees.
Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ and brown salvia (Salvia africana-lutea) are just two of many, many other salvia options to consider.
Time for mums
Fall is chrysanthemum season. What most people don’t know is that the same species of chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium) you plant in garden beds is the species grown in pots as a gift plant for Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving and other holidays.
You can find potted chrysanthemums at your neighborhood florist in every season. The reason for this is that chrysanthemums are short-day plants, meaning that they require long nights in order to develop flower buds and bloom.
To create blooming chrysanthemums in every season, the plants are grown in shuttered greenhouses. The shutters are kept closed, as needed, to increase nighttime hours so that growers can force development of chrysanthemum flower buds throughout the year.
If you take the chrysanthemum you received as a gift and plant it in the ground, it will flower happily each year in the fall, although the blossoms will be smaller than they were grown in the pot.
Growing up or down
Coral fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) is one of the longest blooming yet easiest plants to grow. I always wonder why more of it is not seen.
It makes an ideal subject for a sunny container garden and blooms spectacularly when drifting over a block wall.
Plants are funny that way. Some need to grow up and some need to grow down to maximize their horticultural potential.
Take grapes, for example. If you do not provide some sort of trellis or other accessory for climbing, you will see lots of grape leaves trailing along the ground but few, if any, grapes.
At least you can use grape leaves for cooking (stuff them with rice, green peppers and beef), or a variety of other comestible combinations.
Bougainvillea may also be grown as a ground cover. To achieve the desired look, all vertical shoots are pruned to encourage horizontal growth and shoots may be pinned to the ground with U nails.
You will see your grounded bougainvillea burst into color every now and then, but unfortunately you will not get the months-on-end surge of color that is the time-tested result of growing bougainvillea as a vine.
In the manner of coral fountain, balcony geraniums (Pelargonium peltatum ‘Balcon’) flower much more heavily when hanging over a balcony than when planted in the ground. Their lifespan in balcony planters is also significantly greater than when they are used as garden ground cover.
Balcony geraniums are available in red, pink and lavender.
Fan flower (Scaevola aemula) also seems to perform best when planted in a container. Moreover, it is a plant that needs to be appreciated up close.
While easy to overlook in a flower bed, it is impossible to miss fan flower when it spills over the side of a flowerpot, in which it feels most at home and blooms most prolifically.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.