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(Mother Fern) Ferns are low-maintenance plants that add a tropical look to the Salvia garden. This one grows well in USDA Zones 9 to 11. Mother Fern, which has a graceful, arching look and finely cut fronds, loves partial to full shade and lots of water. This makes it an excellent choice for damp, shady Southeastern gardens.
Due to its arching nature, Mother Fern only measures 24 inches tall and looks particularly pretty with short Asian woodland sages and Salvias for warmer winter climes, such as the Rosy Bract Sage (Salvia rubiginosa), which has cool, violet-blue flowers. In addition to ample water, Mother Fern needs rich soil.
The bulbiferum appellation of its scientific name, refers to the fern’s production of plantlets on the tips of its fronds. These babies drop off and grow into new plants, which explains the common name of Mother Fern. Another common name for this fern is Spleenwort. Whereas wort is Old English for “plant,” spleen refers to the fern’s ancient role as a medicinal plant.
In the wilds of its Australian and New Zealand homelands, this deer-resistant plant grows as an epiphyte on trees and fern trunks as well as a rooted plant along shady rock croppings and waterways. Epiphytes don’t harm their host plants, because they only rely on tree trunks and other structures for support. When epiphytic instead of rooted in the soil, ferns consume nutrients and moisture drifting in the air. Tarra Bulga National Park in Victoria, Australia, is home to many Mother Ferns.
(Lords and Ladies) Large, glossy, arrow-shaped leaves with marble-like cream-colored variegations are one of the major attractions of Arum italicum 'Pictum', which is sometimes called Arum italicum 'Marmoratum'.
A large pale green-to-cream bract -- called a spathe -- rises to a peak like an elf's cap behind the tiny white flowers on the yellow, finger-like spadix of this exotic looking woodland plant. Almost ephemeral, the spathe lasts only hours.
The arrow foliage may appear almost year round, except in summer when all that is left of the plant is the stalk topped with colorful red to orange berry seeds.
Lords and Ladies is an almost magical looking plant for containers or woodland gardens where it spreads gently by way of tuberous roots or seeds bringing color to shady areas.
Described by some sources as unpleasant, the aroma of Arum flowers appeals to insect pollinators.
Maybe it is the pungent smell that warns off wildlife, including deer. They seem to know not to eat the plant due to the calcium oxalate crystals it contains. All Araceae family species are a bit toxic. But calcium oxalate also appears in other plant families. It is the same phytochemical that makes Rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum leaves inedible.
Native to Europe from England to Cyprus and the Canary Islands, this short, heat-tolerant plant is moisture loving but does well with average watering. Its many common names -- including Jack in the Pulpit and Orange Candle Flower -- are as colorful as it is. As to its "Lords and Ladies" moniker, laundry workers used the roots to create a starch during Elizabethan times for the fancy ruffs and collars that lords, ladies and royalty wore.
(Balkan Sage) Violet-blue whorls of flowers and plentiful, fuzzy, basal leaves that reach an impressive length of 18 inches are two notable features about this hardy, herbaceous perennial, which is native to the Southeastern Balkan Peninsula.
Balkan Sage is found in coniferous forests, meadows and slopes from Bulgaria to Turkey's Black Sea coast. However, it is named after the 19th century Finnish plant collector Peter Forsskål, who collected botanical samples further south in Saudi Arabia.
Although deciduous in areas with cold winters, it blooms about nine months a year for us on the Northern California coast beginning in summer. Following a brief winter dormancy, it returns reliably every spring, clumping in a way that makes it look like Hosta from a distance. Yet, unlike that woodland plant, it grows well in full sun as well partial shade. It is a fine choice for a lightly shaded garden or border and is happy in the acid soil under conifers.
Give it soil with average fertility, occasional water and enough shade to promote lush growth. Your reward will be large flowers with lovely white and yellow bee lines attractive to hummingbirds and honeybees.
(Makino) We would grow this rare clone of the woodland Japanese native Salvia glabrescens even if it never flowered, because the hairless, arrow-shaped foliage is so lush, toothed and colorful. As they age, the arrow-shaped leaves transform from yellowish green to dark green.
This is a plant for moist, shady garden spots, but can take a bit of morning sun. It is hardy as long as it receives plenty of shade, water and soil that is rich and well-drained. In autumn, short spikes of small, pink and purple two-tone flowers rise out of compact basal foliage, creating a gracefully proportioned look.
Makino should be seen up close both for its extraordinary flowers and lush foliage. Plant it in a container, along a shady pathway or as a woodland groundcover. Although slow growing, this tough yet lovely sage is worth the wait. Fortunately, deer don't like it.
(Himalayan Sage or Kashmir Sage) The word "hians" in Salvia hians means "gaping" and refers to the hanging lip of this sage's flowers, which are a dusky violet and bloom from late spring through early fall.
This hardy, easy-to-grow species is a heat-tolerant native of Pakistan and Bhutan where it is found at elevations of 8,000 to 13,000 ft. Sticky and fragrant, the foliage features heart-shaped leaves.
Himalayan Sage grows in woodlands and on slopes in its native environment. Give it sun in cool climates and part shade in warm areas. This water-loving, herbaceous sage also needs soil rich in humus.
Please note: the "true identity of this plant is in question. We offer it as is, with no certainty as to whether it is the real Salvia hians.
Himalayan Sage is a good border plant for shady walkways. Although deer don't like it, our customers do. Consequently, it is usually in short supply.
(Purple Prince Lyreleaf Sage or Cancerweed) Due to its short height and reddish-purple, veined leaves, Purple Prince Lyreleaf Sage often is descriped as looking like Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans).
Barely discernible, the flowers of Lyreleaf Sages bloom in spring and summer. It is the dramatic basal foliage -- including the purplish stems and calyxes of its flower spikes -- that makes this plant attractive.
Purple Prince is a compact 8 inches tall except when its flower spikes increase its height to 18 inches. It has reddish-purple foliage in contrast to the deep purple of Purple Volcano, another variety of Lyreleaf Sage that we grow. Both are adaptable from full sun to full shade. These are heat- and cold-tolerant plants that are perennial in USDA Zones 5 to 11.
Lyreleaf Sages love water, but can get by on average watering based on local conditions. They also aren't picky about soils, but reseed easily in loose, sandy ground. Although endangered in New York, this American native species can be invasive where sandy soil and steady moisture are available. It grows wild in 25 states from Kansas east to New Jersey and in the South from Texas to Florida.
Lyreleaf refers to the shape of the heavily lobed leaves as being similar to a musical lyre. Consumed in salads when its leaves are young and in teas, the species has a weak, minty flavor. Its other prevalent common name, Cancerweed, refers to a long history as a medicinal plant. Native Americans made salves and infusions from Lyreleaf Sages for ailments including asthma, colds, constipation and diarrhea.
Butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds all love this plant and so do we.
(Big Swing Sage) With its large, cobalt blue flowers displayed on strong, wiry, branched stems, this eye-catching sage wins the FBTS "best of class" designation for being our top Big Leaf Sage (Salvia macrophylla).
Garden writer Betsy Clebsch developed Big Swing, which is a cross between Big Leaf Sage and Arrowleaf Sage (S. sagitata). Its flower spikes rise well above handsome foliage with large, furry, arrowhead-shaped leaves that look almost tropical.
Use this heat-tolerant plant to bring a lush look to a damp corner of your garden or in mixed patio containers. Give it rich, well-drained soil and plenty of water for a long bloom season.
Big Swing comes highly recommended by butterflies, but deer leave it alone.
Hummingbirds love Salvia (sage) nectar and are attracted to it by the bright colors of tubular sage blossoms. In particular, these little whirlybirds can easily spot flowers in the red spectrum, which is prevalent among sages. Here are some hummingbird gardening tips.