• A garden seasoned with Autumn sage

    by  • November 28, 2011 • Fall, Garden, Plant Profiles

    Autumn sages, Salvia greggii, are low key shrubs most of the year. In cool seasons these evergreen mounding sages shine and give us blooms for a long period adding radiant color to the garden. Right now in my garden they are still in full bloom and it reminds me to buy more! I’d love to try taking cuttings from them.

    True and pure red Autumn sage

    True and pure red Autumn sage 'Flame'

    Autumn sage is an herbaceous perennial native to Texas but very suitable to mix with our native Californian plants. It was named in 1870 by botanist Asa Gray, and in doing so he honored Josiah Gregg, an early American explorer and botanist. It comes in many colors, white, pink, magenta, salmon and red and even blues and purples. There are new varieties bred for improved summer flowering, too.

    Salvia greggii 'Mesa Azure' is stunning, I think

    Salvia greggii 'Mesa Azure' is stunning, I think

    Deer don’t touch these in our garden where the animals abound. When they bloom, I’m reminded to plant other autumn blooming plants near each one to multiply the color that I appreciate so much right now.  Pineapple sage, Copper Canyon daisy or Tagetes lemmonii, and fall blooming grasses like Miscanthus or our native deer grass would look well in combination with Autumn sages.

    This red has striking black stems

    This red has striking blackish stems

    Salvia greggii 'Flame'

    Salvia greggii 'Flame'

    Magenta Autumn sage, Salvia greggii 'Lipstick', in the box Elder bed glows against the forest beyond

    Magenta Autumn sage, Salvia greggii 'Lipstick', in the box Elder bed glows against the forest beyond

    Including an Autumn sage in most planting beds is a great idea for extending colorful bloom, like one I posted about which has a native Box elder, red Autumn sage, a Curlicue sage, which is really an Artemisia, and a puff of Brachyscome multifida. Now when the tree is nearly leafless, the Autumn sage is a star, blooming brightly.

    Cushiony Brachyscome multifida has a thousand tiny blooms

    Cushiony Brachyscome multifida has a thousand tiny blooms

    One perfect companion is an often overlooked cool season low-grower called Brachyscome multifida or Cut Leaf Daisy. A periwinkle blue flowering perennial and deer resistant, it contrasts beautifully with some of the bright magenta Autumn sages.

    Cut leaf daisy or Brachyscome multifida

    Cut leaf daisy or Brachyscome multifida

    Blue Oak Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides exactly matches my broken blue Bauer pot

    Blue Oak Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides exactly matches my broken blue Bauer pot

    Another sage that resembles Autumn sage very closely and blooms at the same time is Germander Sage or Blue Oak Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides.  It’s a wonderful hardy sage, as well, and has the benefit of true blue color.

    Blue Oak Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides

    Blue Oak Sage, Salvia chamaedryoides

    A red and magenta sage on either side of some native Bear Clover, Chamaebatia foliolosa

    An orangey red and a magenta sage on either side of some native Bear Clover, Chamaebatia foliolosa

    Care is easy for this sage,…you really only have to prune and shape it to be bushy and full. It needs little water, but planting it near a bit of afternoon shade can help keep it lush through the hot summer. Use hand clippers and snip each branch at a slightly different length for a more natural-looking effect.

    Penstemon ‘Violet Dusk’ near a red Autumn sage

    Penstemon ‘Violet Dusk’ near a red Autumn sage

    Pretty hot combination, huh?

    Pretty hot combination, huh?

    This year, after planting Penstemon ‘Violet Dusk’ near a red Autumn sage, I found that they bloomed long and prettily together after other blooming plants had faded away.  They made bright and vivid spots in the garden.

    This Penstemon 'Violet Dusk' was one of my bargain $1 plants planted last fall.

    This Penstemon 'Violet Dusk' was one of my bargain $1 plants planted last fall.

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.