Although used in cooking, this mild tasting oregano is particularly ornamental. Its gold-green leaves turn bright gold in autumn adding a glow to herb gardens, borders and container plantings. In summer, it shoots up 20-inch-tall spikes of pink flowers.
Norton’s Gold is a hybrid, but the species is native to Greece and Turkey. This short variety rises up 3 to 6 inches and spreads 24 inches or more. So it works well as a fragrant, drought-resistant groundcover. It's also cold tolerant and grows well in USDA Zones 6 to 9.
Give this perennial partial to full shade or a combination of morning sun and afternoon shade. Any soil will do as long as it is well drained. Regular watering is fine, but as with so many herbs, Norton’s Gold Oregano thrives in dry conditions.
Historically, oreganos have been used as in herbal remedies for problems including respiratory difficulties, heartburn and urinary tract afflictions. Oregano oil also is used in insect repellant; in the garden, oregano plants deter many garden pests while attracting honeybees and butterflies. You might say they are golden.
(Heart Leaf Sage) From the rich plains of Northern Argentina comes this delicate looking sage with heart-shaped leaves and pale blue flowers so perfect they seem to be molded in wax. Although a slow grower that requires good garden culture, this Salvia is exquisite.
Heart Leaf Sage needs fertile soil that is rich in humus and well drained. It grows well in the ground or in a container. Site it in a warm, sunny spot where it can receive partial shade and no reflected heat. Water and fertilize well. Be patient, as it seems to take a year or more to settle in and become robust. Then sit back and enjoy the lovely foliage and 1-inch-long, striped flowers.
This perennial sage was found by Rolando Uría in Chaco, Argentina in 2009 and is one of the rarest Salvias in the world. It is quite slow to increase, but we highly recommend its beauty.
(Cedros Island Sage) From the Island of Cedars off the coast of Baja California Sur comes this delightful xeric sage with deep violet-blue flowers and silvery foliage. The square-shaped, 1-inch-long leaves are densely covered with short white hairs providing moisture retention and a velvety texture.
This is a gem for xeric, full-sun gardens. It is easy to grow if you understand the conditions on Cedros Island, which are dry, hot and generally sunny. In their mountain-forest ecosystem, the minimal water that these plants receive is largely from occasional fog. So keep this plant mostly dry, give it perfect drainage and don't shade it if possible. Your reward will be a lovely edging plant, small-scale ground cover or a short but dramatic container plant.
This Salvia is rare to find in cultivation; we are very happy to be able to supply this lovely plant.
(Pineapple Sage) An indispensable fall-blooming addition to the garden, this tender perennial is, perhaps, the best of all hummingbird plants. When in bloom, it is covered in 3-inch-long red flowers.
Pineapple Sage forms a mound of fragrant foliage and brilliant color that is 3 to 6 feet tall. Outdoors, it shows best in mild climates, because it doesn't begin blooming until mid to late fall.
If your growing season is short, plant it in a large container and overwinter it indoors such as in a greenhouse. Even if you miss the later part of its bloom cycle, the sweet smell of this culinary sage's leaves is a pleasure all summer long. They taste particularly delicious in breads.
Pineapple Sage works well as a landscape screen or in a perennial border. Its flower spikes are lovely in cut flower arrangements.
Native to Mexico, it grows at high elevations in Pine and Oak forests. The species is used medicinally -- such as in herb tea -- to relieve anxiety and treat hypertension. Just smelling the leaves makes us happier.
(Forysthia Sage) This statuesque perennial grows up to 10 feet tall, but spreads only 3 feet wide. It is a late bloomer from Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental mountains where it grows at altitudes of 4,000 to 5,000 feet and tolerates temperatures down to 20 degrees F.
Short periods of colder temperatures don't kill this tough sage. When knocked out by frigid weather, it usually comes back from root stock. A single plant forms a multi-stemmed thicket through slowly spreading rootstock, but can easily be kept tidy by removing unwanted stems.
Give this sage morning sun and afternoon shade as well as ample water. From fall until frost -- or into spring in mild winter areas -- it will reward you with buttery yellow flowers that make this shrub look like a Forsythia from a distance. But get up close and you will notice that it has roughly textured, heart shaped leaves as well as thick, square stems.
You can grow Forsythia Sage as a screen, border or background plant. It even does well in containers. We love to plant Bog Sage, Salvia uliginosa at its base for a bright blue floral contrast.
(Sacred flower of the Incas) Long reddish blossoms with flared, trumpet-like corollas and bright blue pollen contrast with mid-green foliage in the long-blooming, South American species Cantua buxifolia.
To be more specific about color, the flowers are magenta to red-orange. They grow in clusters of 12 or more on these tall shrubs that are evergreen in areas with mild winter temperatures. In its native lands, this heat- and humidity-tolerant plant grows on the margins of forests. For best results, give it full sun and rich, well-drained soil. You'll be rewarded with visits from butterflies and hummingbirds.
Mostly known as "Kantu" or "Cantuta" in Peru and Bolivia where it is considered a national flower, Cantua buxifolia also grows in the Yungas mountains of Northern Argentina. Aside from reds, different varieties of the species offer pink, yellow and white flowers.
Cantua is a Latinization of qantu -- the species' original name from the native Quechuan people of the Andes. Buxifolia refers to the shrub's boxwood-style foliage.
Considered sacred in Andean cultures, reddish Kantu flowers often are used decoratively during during holy days. Perhaps because of their sizeable, tubular flowers, Kantu is a word also used to describe musical groups that play Andean flutes similar to pan pipes.
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.
Fragrance as well as color attracts butterflies. However, they don't have noses. Instead, butterflies smell and taste with their antennas and feet. Here are some ways to attract them:
If you live in suburbs or rural areas where deer plunder gardens, Salvias (sages) can be part of your plan for discouraging these hungry visitors. Here are some tips.
Xeric plants are excellent for water conservation. They grow well in dry gardens with little to no supplemental watering once established. In fact, overwatering can harm these plants, which are native to dry environments such as deserts and chaparral.
At Flowers by the Sea, we identify all xeric plants with a blue plant marker that warns against overwatering. Here are some tips for growing and understanding our xeric, or blue tag, plants:
1) In a humid region, you may find it difficult to grow plants native to semi-arid and arid environments. Yet xeric plants may succeed if you have a persistently dry area, such as under a roof overhang or in the shelter of a tree.
2) Xeric plants are excellent for locations far from garden hoses, such as along sidewalks -- areas often referred to as "hellstrips."
3) Shipping is hard on xeric plants, which suffer from confinement in small containers as well as boxes. You may see some mold, spots on leaves or withered foliage when they arrive. But xeric plants perk up with proper care while hardening off in partial shade before planting.
4) When amending soil before planting, remember that xeric plants not only need excellent drainage but also flower better in low fertility soil. Fertilize sparingly and use a mix with more phosphorous than nitrogen to encourage flowering and discourage lax overgrowth of foliage.
5) Organic matter, such as compost, is an excellent soil amendment for xeric plants, because it keeps their roots healthy by improving aeration and drainage.
6) When your xeric plants are established, water infrequently to encourage deep root growth and to avoid fungal problems. However, it's a good idea to gently spray dust off foliage about once a week.