Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Sage Tale

Sages for the Ages
As far as I can tell, there are two kind of sages (salvias)- ornamental and culinary. Culinary sage has broader, thicker, crinkly leaves in comparison to ornamental sages, but it is pretty in its own right when it sends up its bluish-purple flower spike (the flowers are pretty enough for the table). Culinary sage is often used in poultry seasoning mixes and Italian dishes (I make a wicked good sage, chickpea and tomato soup). I grows almost like a weed, though can become woody over the years.

Ornamental sages are not edible and do not taste good- to humans. But their flowers produce nectar that attracts hummingbirds. I have many ornamental sages right outside my front door and have frequent hummingbird sightings in season (April 15 to beginning of October) as a result. Ornamental sages are hardy in this area, though they do get woody after a few years and need trimming to get vigorous growth and sometimes need to be replaced. They are relatively care-free in my zone: no pests or diseases (so far) seem to bother them. They are also relatively easy to propagate from cuttings. I cut an 8 inch stem and strip the leaves off the bottom half. I wrap it in a damp paper towel, place it in a glass and put it on a windowsill. I make sure the paper stays moist and I usually have a rooted cutting in 2-3 weeks.

I have two favorite ornamental sages- pineapple sage and autumn sage, pictured above, but I have also grown a lovely sage, "Black and Blue", as an annual, and other "experimental" pink and yellow sages, as annuals, that I purchased at botanical garden sales.

Happy gardening!

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