Thursday, July 21, 2011
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.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
And I am living proof of that statement. We have several different herbs at the garden center, from Corsican, chocolate and orange mints to pineapple and tri-color sages. We have Italian, Greek & regular oregano, along with lemon balm and lemon basil.
I love herbs. I love the look and the smell of them and the endless possibility of uses amaze me. I have had a rosemary bush in the garden for several years and each Thanksgiving I pull the weeds off it, cut a sprig and put it in with my turkey to cook. The house is filled with its heavenly aroma, and that concludes my use of herbs. There is a chef inside me trying to get out and experiment with all these herbs. I can tell you what to do with them, but somewhere between the plant and the oven, things go down hill. Case in point, my chicken spaghetti.
How could such a delicious sounding recipe go so wrong? I have had friends make good-hearted jest on facebook about my chicken spaghetti (you know who you are). I’m beginning to fear that it will be used to scare young children…’If you don’t behave, Mrs. Rubner will make you some chicken spaghetti.’ So I will stick with growing herbs for customers, pass on some advice and as they drive off, wonder what culinary delights they will create using herbs. In the mean time, I will decide what new and interesting herbs to carry next year. But I will put my cooking skills to good use, I will tell the kids that if they do not clean their rooms this weekend I will make chicken spaghetti for dinner. I’ll bet the rooms will be clean and maybe my husband will take me out for dinner…Hmmm, I could be onto something.