Thursday, April 11, 2013

Other Chaparral Shrubs - The Sages

So far I have concentrated on larger chaparral shrubs that give structure to the garden. I have discussed my gardening experience with Coast Live Oak (a tree rather than a shrub), Flannel Bush, Toyon, Lemonade Berry, Silk Tassel Bush, and Calif. Lilac.

Now I want to talk about other shrubs that fill in beneath the larger shrubs, adding color and different textures. I'll start with the Sages (Salvia sp.). There are a great many Salvia species. One of my favorites is Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii).

The Salvias are in the Mint family (Lamiaceae). The flower structure is characteristic of many of the sages, having a tall spike with numerous whorls of individual flowers. In botany lingo this is called a verticillaster. Foliage of mints is typically fragrant and Cleveland Sage certainly exemplifies this. On a warm summer evening with no breeze the sweet fragrance will carry quite a distance from the plant. I can sometimes smell it inside the house. Another thing that many people like about the sages is their grey-green foliage color.

Another of my favorite sages is White Sage (Salvia apiana). It has larger, smoother leaves that are more grey, almost white in color. The fragrance is different too, being less sweet and more pungent. Native people use the leaves as an incense. The inflorescence (flower stalk) is also a verticillaster, but the individual flowers are paler. In my garden the inflorescence of White Sage appears later than that of Cleveland Sage. The habit of the plant is more spreading and less upright compared with Cleveland Sage. Altogether it is another excellent choice for the garden.

The final sage for today is Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea). It's behavior and requirements are quite different from White Sage and Cleveland Sage. It is an herb rather than a shrub, so it doesn't really get a woody stem on it. The leaves are softer and a bit more succulent. Hummingbird Sage is essentially a ground cover that likes sunny to partly shaded areas, such as beneath my oak tree. These areas are often referred to as dry shade, although it probably retains a little more moisture in the soil than adjacent sunny, open areas. In really dry periods it may almost disappear, retreating into its underground parts. But with once a month water it will stay green and happy.

It spreads by underground runners, so that a single plant will become a patch, but I wouldn't call it invasive. As shown in the photo above, the foliage doesn't get very tall, about 1 ft. at the most.

The inflorescence (flower spike) by contrast gets to be a couple feet tall and is great. Individual flowers pop out from all around the whorl. Interestingly, it seems to bloom more readily in sunny areas, even though the foliage seems to do better in shady areas.

Hummingbird's of course love it. Altogether it is a great one for locations that get sun just part of the day or lightly filtered sun all day.

1 comment:

  1. The habit of the plant is more spreading and less upright compared with Cleveland Sage. Altogether it is another excellent choice for the garden.
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