Tag Archives: herb garden

The Summer of Salvia

Get to know Salvia!
Salvia is a genus of plants related to the mint family (Lamiaceae). This huge plant family can be confusing because some of the relatives simply don’t look (or act)  like the others. Salvia varieties can be found as perennials, biennials and annuals. The heat of summer brings most Salvia’s into prime beauty in the garden and now is the time to get to know more about them.

This is sage
Most think of sage (Salvia) as the common herb that flavors turkey dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. As you discover this large family of plants, you will notice that there is much diversity. Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, aromatic and useful in landscape design. Not all are edible, some are intensely fragrant, one is mind-altering when smoked, and some are just simply floriferous and nothing more.

Get to know some of the Salvia family:
Salvia officinalis: Commonly called garden sage; these are the ones you cook with and have the most desired qualities for skin care and remedies. They are shrubby, woody perennials that are hardy, drought tolerant and deer resistant.

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Lovely texture and color of Tricolor Sage

The leaf color and texture of golden sage (S. officinalis ‘Aurea’), purple sage (S. officinalis ‘Purpurea’) and Berggarten sage (S. officinalis ‘Berggarten’) also make them an attractive addition to a herb garden and landscape.

Sage is the herb of wisdom. Ancient herbalists praised it for improving brain function, and for memory and dementia. The Romans had a saying, “Cur morietur homo, cui salvia crescuit in horto?” (How can a man die who has sage growing in his garden?)  Historical usage has even made sage a synonym for the word “wise”.

The leaves are used fresh and dried. They impart a rich, earthy fragrance when the essential oils release from the plant. Highly astringent a topical wash for cleaning up oily, dirty skin. Sage is a strong disinfectant that when infused into water are a good addition to spray mists with lavender and mints. A hair rinse made with sage water or a leaf poultice will darken hair color and make hair smooth and shiny.


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Wisdom Toner and Aftershave
For this toner and aftershave, combine common garden sage with English lavender buds and allow to steep in natural witch hazel.
The witch hazel lends its cleansing and pore tightening properties to the skin renewing herbal mix. The recipe can be found on page 125 of the Herb Lover’s Spa book!


Red Sage: (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is one of the most reputable medicinally used sages. The root is used as an important tonic herb in Chinese medicine (Dan Shen). The roots are valued as a blood purifier and nerve calmative.

Sacred Sage (Salvia apiana) : A beautiful silvery, narrow-leaved sage that has a long history of use as food and medicine for native American tribes along the Pacific coast. Prized for use in smudge sticks for purification and religious ceremonies.

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Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) A annual in most climates this large sage is most noted for its brilliant red flowers that are a hummingbird magnet in the late summer. The golden variety (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’) will add striking foliage texture to the garden. The leaves have a fresh pineapple fragrance and can be used as a garnish or salads. Use the leaves in tea (the leaves lose their flavor when subjected to high heat, so they are best for sun tea mixes)

Salvia divinorum: I got to know more about this sage when kids in high school asked my daughter if her mom, the plant nerd, could hook them up with some Salvia. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/salvia.   Have you seen the “Gardening on Salvia” video? (Warning if you google the YouTube version, it has been hacked up with some nasty comments, the link is a cleaner version) The “Driving on Salvia” makes me LOL when the cat jumps on the windshield…but I digress.

Perennial and other floriferous Salvias
These are cultivars for long blooming color in the garden.
Popular Purples:
Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’
Salvia nemorosa ‘East Friesland’
Salvia x sylvestris ‘May Night’
Autumn sages (Salvia greggii):

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Purple Salvia mixed with Leonotis leonurus

Tender perennials typically only hardy to USDA Zone 7. These will bloom early summer to late fall. Look for the varieties ‘Lipstick’, ‘Furman’s Red’ and Desert Blaze Texas sage (Salvia greggii ‘Variegata’)
Other cool cultivars:
Hot Lips (Salvia microphylla)
Black and Blue (Salvia guaranitica)
There are many more! Explore more here: https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/perennial-salvia-plants
http://www.fbts.com/everything-salvias/

Annuals
Salvia ‘Amistad’: deep purple flowers that are almost black in the bud stage.
Salvia ‘Blue Victoria’, ‘Dwarf Purple’ and ‘Dwarf Red’ are common annuals used for long-standing color in container gardens and annual bedding.

 

 


Travelogue: Chelsea Physic Garden

IMG_3352 ifirst herbal book sign.jpg In the 1600’s, the engaging study of botany and plants, really depended on only 3 sources: herbals (such as Gerard’s), collections of plants (pressed, dried, glued to sheets of paper and labelled), and excursions to countries where teachers were learning from living plants. The challenge-some plants were being studied by looking at dead plants glued to a page. It just wasn’t the same as learning by growing a living plant, nor very diverse. So a group called the Apothecaries set out to find land in London just after the great fire, where they could cultivate rare plants and sow seeds and slips from plants that were being brought in from other countries.
And so begins the garden intended for study and the advancement of botany and not just a garden to grow plants used for drugs. The reputation of a garden for medicine is steeped in history. Because truly medicine men and healers became the only teachers of botany. Early descriptions of plants were written by them. Even digging deeper into history, a wonderful old book I bought at a bookshop at Hay-On-Wye, The Romance of the Apothecaries Garden at Chelsea (1928) states:  Primitive man crawled out of his cave and had to “discover that the roots and leaves of wild cabbage were wholesome, but that the plant monkshood nearby would stop his breath” …and so the cave man became, of necessity a field botanist–a better one than many a modern Londoner.”img_8824-bookjpg
Today, a walk through this 4-acre plot that is surrounded by  brick walls and iron gates to keep out the hustle and bustle of  London is still following its original intent. A place to study, learn and experience useful plants. For me, it was truly a reminder that seeing a plant, touching and smelling it are the best ways to learn about plants.img_3353chelsea

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A bust of Joseph Banks, the plant hunter who donated stone for use in the building of  the Pond Rockery Garden

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign!

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In case you are tempted to pinch a plant to take a cutting home…here is your warning

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