Friday, April 22, 2016

Sages Add Color and Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

I have been growing several varieties of sage for decades now. Sage plants need little care and little water. They are ideal for making a yard attractive after you replace your lawn with drought-resistant plants. Even  when they are not in bloom, their leaves add interest and different shades of color. When they are in bloom you will hear them as you approach, since they will already be covered with bees. Sages add color and attract beneficial insects to your garden. 

Red Cherry Sage in My Neighbor's Garden, © B. Radisavljevic

The first sage I grew was common sage. Unfortunately, I had no idea I was supposed to prune it severely in the spring. It has become an unruly mess now after being left alone for about twenty years. Other than that, it requires little care. It is propagated most easily with root division, which is how I've multiplied my plants. I use root division to propagate all my sage varieties.


The next varieties I added were golden sage and tricolor sage. Unfortunately, the golden sage was planted too close to my tricolor sage and another common sage plant, and when I wasn't paying attention, they swallowed it. So I have no photo of golden sage. Below is a tricolor sage plant I propagated from the mother plant into another herb garden. It is sitting between rosemary on the left and common sage on the right. It was taken toward the end of June.

Tricolor Sage Between Rosemary and Common Sage, © B. Radisavljevic


I then planted a root division in this pot for a place in my Paso Robles garden. I guess I haven't given it enough soil in the pot to supply the nutrients it needs to bloom in this setting, since it has never bloomed here. It is sitting next to a clary sage plant that is blooming. On its left is blooming hyssop. All by itself in back is a mullein which will take a few more months to bloom.

Tricolor and Clary Sage,  © B. Radisavljevic


The next sage I added to my collection was black sage. It was in a small pot when I planted it. Again, I didn't realize at the time that it needed to be cut back every  year. Within a few years it was swallowing everything around it but a butterfly bush and some rosemary. When I wanted to plant a root division in Paso Robles, I knew it would grow fast to fill space in the side yard. I planted it about three years ago and cut it back every year, and this is how it looks now. I want to keep it this size, but I will have to move the irises and daffodils planted around it.

Black Sage, © B. Radisavljevic


Bees and butterflies love black sage and this plant is always buzzing until the sun goes down. The bee is to the left, and the painted lady butterfly is on the right. I also see bumblebees, but I don't like to get too close to them.

Beneficial Insects on Black Sage,  © B. Radisavljevic


After I started improving the flower beds here in 2013, I started trying some new sages. The watermelon sage was one of them. I am pleased with the color it adds to my garden and it doesn't try to take over like the black sage does. It's not in full bloom in these photos.



I should probably either move this Spanish sage away from the jamine that's trying to drown it, or keep the jasmine cut back more. It would probably get more sun in the side yard. I may move it in fall.

Spanish Sage, © B. Radisavljevic


I was not successful with this Victoria Blue Sage. I think it did not get enough sun or something was wrong in the soil. It died within weeks of being planted. I think I also saw a gopher hole about that time nearby.

Victoria Blue Sage, © B. Radisavljevic


I'm  sure I will keep adding more varieties of sage to my garden as I find the room and the time to plant them. Perhaps I will try  some of these I've seen on my walks. The compact Jerusalem sage was found at the Donati Family Tasting Room. The others below were seen in the bed between the sidewalk and the street near a vacant lot on 21st Street as I was leaving Smart and Final.



Which sages have you grown? Which are your favorites?



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