Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sage advice

Good old gardening hunches. There I was several months ago with a gap to fill in the garden, standing in a garden centre looking at a bunch of herbs and other potted lovelies for sale. Which one to choose? That's where the hunch came in handy. 

The spot to be filled was small yet sunny, and it wasn't that far from the place where a culinary sage bush had thrived gorgeously for several years. And there I was staring at a potted seedling of purple sage in the garden centre. Thank goodness I followed my hunch because the purple sage is also thriving now, and this week it has burst into full colour with its combination of blue blooms and purpley-green foliage. A very nice show indeed.

Here it is in close up...
… and standing a few feet further back. So far
it is staying as a smallish thing, no more than
two feet high and wide at the most. Hopefully
it won't get any bigger.
My 'other' sage plant is now limited to a pot,
as it always grew too big and sprawly for the
spot it called home. It was a constant workload
cutting it back to size, and eventually I just
decided to dig it all up, retain one section of
stems with roots and planted that in the pot.
It has been happy there ever since.
The leaves of the common, culinary sage,
(Salvia officinalis) are longer, narrower and
decidedly greener than the purple plant's
foliage. They also seem a bit more fragrant.
The purple one's leaves are shorter and
wider. They have been even more purpley in
colour through their first winter, and they
seem to be greening up as the weather
warms and the flowers appear. I suspect that
is what will happen: it'll green up for summer
then purple-up again in autumn or winter.
It'd be nice if that happened, but I will just
have to wait out my first year with it to
find out.
Anyway, the moral of this blog posting is that if you are looking for a small (well under 1m high and wide) shrub with very nice foliage interest year-round, and a pleasing spring show that has been happening for a couple of weeks already and doesn't look like slowing down any time soon, have a look at purple sage. 

As far as growing tips go, it needs sunshine, soil that drains well and that's about it. Haven't fed it, clipped it, or bothered too much with watering it. It has just looked after itself, but maybe that's just my good luck that sage likes it here. 


Padaek said...

You do grow excellent sage, and other herbs - in fact everything you grow looks great!! The purple sage, leaves & blooms, look wonderful. I was wondering, is the purple sage edible too? Blooms also? Just saw a pic of Mrs Lithops, lol - she was such a star! :D

Jamie said...


I had a little laugh when I looked up Jill Norman's book of herbs and spices, and for purple sage she says: "It rarely flowers but when it does the blue flowers look stunning against the foliage"

Purple sage is usable in all the ways that you can use common sage, but is has the slight advantage that it isn't as pungent as common sage. I find common sage an somewhat overpowering herb, so the trick with it is to not use too much. Though I haven't yet cooked with purple sage, I look forward to doing so, especially if it has a slightly milder flavour than its cousin.

And Mrs Lithops, you're right. She was a star!