Thursday, July 21, 2011

Russian Sage - a plant that even a Czar would envy

I don’t need to tell you it is HOT out there.  I walk out to my nursery and cringe when I see what southern summers can do to plants, then I spot my Russian Sage and wish all my plants could tolerate this heat and dry days with as much dignity.  Russian sage actually comes to us from Afghanistan, but I guess Afghanistan Sage is less marketable, so it was named after a Russian Imperial General, Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky, but for what reason, I have no idea.  No matter the region of origin, this plant is a real trooper in the garden when every other plant is withering away. 

Russian sage loves lots of sun and once established is very drought tolerant.  Its four foot height and three foot spread is covered in light lavender flowers from June to September.  This perennial has silvery-green leaves with a gently serrated edge and if you rub the leaves between your fingers they emanate a strong yet fantastic smell. That pungent sage-like smell makes it a good deer resistant perennial with no know pests.  Though, not used in cooking, its smell might work in a dried floral arrangement or in a potpourri mixture.  This plant has a very elegant, architectural form.  Its wispiness teams nicely with purple Coneflowers (Echinacea) or Black-eyed Susan’s (Rudbeckia Goldstrum) and bees and butterflies will love you for it.  Come winter, you will have the silver twisting branches to give some interest to your garden.  And do leave the stems in the winter because Russian sage is a sub-shrub.  Sub-shrubs do not achieve a true dormant stage.  Instead, they are resting, which allows them to respond more quickly to warmer conditions and since pruning can induce new growth, they are very prone to winter damage.  So leave them alone and wait till early spring to prune.
      So plant some Russian sage en masse for a head turning display, and even if you and your garden look a bit wilted, your Russian sage will look marvelous.

1 comment:

  1. I do love Russian Sage, but even it starts to fade in our 100+ temps for weeks on end. But when it cools down in the fall, it will look great again. I plant Rudbeckia, Purple Coneflower, Peach colored daylilies, Lindheimer's muhly grass, summer phlox, and Salvia greggii next to it. It goes with everything :-)