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BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Considering Sage

KERRY PEETZ By KERRY PEETZ
01/15/2021 | Comments

Hello 2021! Ring the church bells, sound the horns, clap your hands, brush last years amended soil dust off of your shoulders! It’s a New Year and there are only 131 days until planting begins. What to plant? What to order? What to divide and share? Take a deep breath of our fresh, crisp Colorado air and spend a few minutes thinking about what you would like in the garden this year.

Cashmere Sage (Phlomis cashmeriana) is a hardy perennial that is perfect for home gardens in our diocese. Its cashmere name comes from the felt-like leaves and their likeness to the incredibly soft, luxurious wool from the cashmere goat.

This beautiful plant is tall and stately in form and has whorls of showy lavender-pink flowers. The sturdy stems and architectural form add interest in both fall and winter. The seed heads attract birds year-round. Cashmere sage prefers full sun to shade with moderate soil moisture and is recommended for U.S. Department of Agriculture zones 4b-8.

Another good sage to consider is Mountain Sage (Artemisia ludoviciana), which is also commonly known as White Sagebrush, Western Mugwort and Mountain Wormwood. It is native to the United States and considered to be a resilient perennial with excellent landscaping value. This plant has a wonderfully aromatic scent and is hardy to USDA Zone 3. It is popular for its striking light color, yellow-white flowers and for not being fussy when grown. It has slightly fuzzy white-gray foliage that in certain lighting can look silver and or blue.  It tolerates our dry mountain soils, and also has fire-resistant properties. You can easily spot mountain sage while hiking in Colorado. It grows on rocky, well-drained soil, usually in full to part sun. It can be propagated from root cuttings but transplants are slow growing. When you plant one give it a little additional water and within a few years it will be a stunning addition to your landscape. Occasionally you can find one at the local nursey in the native plant section. Side note: you can mow over the mound and it will become an attractive ground cover.

Sage (Salvia officinalis). This is the perennial edible herb. Sage is native to the Mediterranean region, has soft, light gray–green leaves and is a member of the mint family. Sage has an earthy, sweet-and-savory flavor that makes it the perfect addition to recipes for homemade sausage, turkey stuffing, cured meats, winter squash dishes, and creamy pasta dishes.

The types of sage that are readily available in most supermarkets and farmer’s markets have names including common sage, culinary sage, kitchen sage, true sage, and garden sage.

When choosing a perennial edible herb sage to grow don’t use Western U.S. varieties (Artemisia spp), as these taste like turpentine. Buy a small, healthy plant and plant it in well-drained soil with full sun. You can also purchase them in a container and grow them indoor/outdoor. In the fall they can be brought inside as a houseplant. Place them in a sunny window, water regularly and enjoy clipping and eating the leaves throughout the winter. If attracting bees and butterflies is your thing, sage is a winner.

‘Sage Bush’

Started from the plant Mother grew from her father’s, my sage bush was the sole survivor in my garden during the recent drought. Grasshoppers, having no choice in the burnt fields, chewed the edges of its evergreen leaves, but now, revived by fall rains, it steps forward in ragged pride with holes in the elbows of its work shirt and patches on its knees. — Phil Howerton, American poet.

(Kerry Peetz is a master gardener and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs.)

Pictured is a cashmere sage plant. (Photo by Susan Jones)


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