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BONNIE'S GARDEN--My Favorite Sages

Salvias are the largest genus of plants in the mint family.  This makes it another relative of rosemary, thyme, oregano, and lavender.  The family includes both annual and perennial varieties, as well as a few woody shrubs.  Many, though not all, varieties are winter-hardy here in Zone 7.

The name “Salvia” comes from the Latin word “salvere” meaning “save” or to “heal.”  It was used for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments.  More recently, ongoing research at Bristol University suggests that extracts of Salvia officinalis (regular culinary sage) can improve cognitive performance.

There are many varieties of Salvia to choose between so, for the purpose of this blog, I’m going to focus on the ones most commonly found in the herb section.

Salvia officinalis “Common Sage.”  This is the one most commonly used for cooking—having an especially affinity for chicken and pork and used to make sage stuffing for turkeys.

Salvia officinalis “Tricolor.”  This is a pretty variegated version with green, white, and purple variegated leaves.

Salvia Elegans “Pineapple Sage.”  Pineapple Sage is one of my favorite salvias.  The leaves smell deliciously like fresh-cut pineapple.  The entire plant, including the flowers, is edible—but almost too pretty to eat.  It forms a sturdy bush around four feet or so in height, topped at summer’s end by hummingbird attractive sprays of tubular red flowers.  It is grown as an annual here.

Salvia hispanica “Chia.”  This salvia is grown for the edible seeds which are high in the omega-3 fatty acid--a-linolenic acid.

Salvia leucantha “Mexican Bush Sage.”  Like Pineapple Sage, this is not winter-hardy but well-worth growing for the pretty three-foot tall silvery foliage and prolific sprays of purple or purple and white flowers.  It is very butterfly and hummingbird attractive. 

All salvias like full sun and very well-draining soil.  The perennial salvias particularly do not like winter wet feet.  Perennial salvias should be pruned back in early spring to encourage branching.  Allow good air circulation.  Harvest leaves all summer long, but harvest lightly after September 1 to allow new foliage a chance to harden off before frost.  You may want to replace hardy salvias every five to six years as they get woodier and will produce fewer growing tips over time.

Besides being beautiful plants, salvias tend to have few insect problems and, best of all here in Deer Country, are generally NOT bothered by deer.
Posted: 6/8/2015 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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