(Bronze Sword) By turns golden, creamy green or outrageously orange, the blades of Bronze Sword rise about knee high. Its star-shaped white flowers, which bloom on shorter, branched stems, are a lovely pure white.
But this member of the Iris-family (Iridaceae) is primarily grown for its striking foliage, which forms dense, stiff, upright fans. Some of the blades have a striped look. As British garden writer Sally Nex says, Bronze Sword is an evergreen that you might as well call "evergold" due to the way its coppery amalgam of colors shine in sunlight.
Similar to other irises, Bronze Sword spreads by rhizomes. When crowded after a few years of growth, it's easy to dig it up so the roots can be separated for replanting.
Bronze Sword is native to New Zealand. It grows well in areas with mild winters, but can tolerate USDA Cold Hardiness Zone 7 if protected with winter mulching and excellent drainage. It does well in any soil as long as the soil isn't persistently damp.
Give this Iris full sun to partial shade. It thrives with average watering based on local conditions, but withstands drought. Bronze Sword looks attractive as path edging and groundcover as well as in borders, cut-flower gardens and seasonal flowerbeds. Don’t worry about deer grazing, because they don't like it.
(North African Sage) This stunning herbaceous perennial has sky blue flowers on showy, branched spikes that grow up to 6 feet tall.
Native to North Africa and Southwest Spain, it is semi-deciduous. North African Sage appears compact until blooming from summer through fall. It's a surprising, spectacular addition to any perennial border. Plant it early for best bloom. After flowering time, you can cut it back to a low mound. We highly recommend this FBTS favorite.
(White Canary Island Sage) This aromatic, white-flowered variant of Canary Island Sage is equally large and long blooming. It is a beautiful focal point for a Mediterranean-style garden with its cloud-like flower spikes and large fuzzy leaves.
In areas with mild winters, such as Zones 9 and 10, this drought-resistant sage may reach 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide, with foliage lasting year round. In colder areas, such as Zone 7a, White Canary Island Sage is a perennial growing up to 4 feet tall. Following frost, it dies back to the ground, then usually returns from its rootstock in spring. Exotic looking whether in or out of bloom, this Salvia is worthwhile even as a large annual for full-sun locations. On our Mendocino Coast farm, it blooms from June until January.
This is the white flowered form of our Canary Island Sage.
(Transvaal Sage) Growing in partially shaded stream beds and rocky grasslands, this herbaceous perennial from South Africa is showy yet tough as a ground cover or perennial border plant. Its spikes of large, pinkish white flowers bloom from spring through fall.
The lush, lance-shaped, pebbly foliage is a cool gray-green. A compact plant, Transvaal Sage fits well in wild gardens and formal borders. This drought-resistant perennial is attractive to butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
According to PlantZAfrica.com, the fragrant leaves are used sparingly in a tea intended to energize the body after illness, decrease fever and reduce heartburn. The website also notes that the leaves are used in a lotion applied to 'skin rashes, stings, bites, pimples, infected scrapes, scratches and sores.'
(Kruipsalie) A creeping growth pattern is what gives this fine, long-blooming sage its scientific appellation "repens." The flower colors of this species include white, mauve and blues. Our selection looks like a pale purple cloud in our garden.
The plant's handsome, bright foliage is rough and hairy with irregularly toothed leaf margins. Its foliage, short height of 12 to 24 inches and rhizomatous root system make it a fine groundcover or path edging. It also looks pretty in containers.
Kruipsalie is the Afrikaans common name of this South African native that comes from from the Eastern Cape. "Salie" refers to the Salvia genus of which there are 26 native species in South Africa.
Although it is often described as blooming summer into fall, our Kruipsalie flowers 10 months a year on the Northern California coast. It grows well in USDA Zones 9 to 11. It is drought tolerant, but responds to regular watering with lush growth. Give it full sun and well-drained soil enriched with compost.
Salvia repens is among the South African Salvias regularly researched for its medicinal and pesticidal properties. In its homeland, it has a plethora of medicinal uses including soothing digestive problems, treating sores and disinfecting homes.
Runcinata means “saw toothed” and concerns the deeply toothed edges of this South African plant’s leaves. At a distance the foliage looks lacy. The plant’s flowers, which bloom in summer, may be white, lilac or purple. Harde Salie is Afrikaans for “hardy Salvia,” and this species tolerates temperatures as low as 5 degrees F.
Salvia runcinata is a drought-resistant sun lover that likes almost any soil that drains well. It is native to Botswana and Zimbabwe as South Africa. This is a sage to grow more for its handsome foliage than its floral display. Use it as a groundcover and add it to perennial borders or the edge of pathways. It also works well in a patio container.
Many African sages are used medicinally. Some observers say the foliage of Salvia runcinata has a fragrance similar to cough medicine.
The foliage contains a number of compounds, including the essential oil Caryophllene, which makes black pepper spicy, and the gum resin Bisabol – a chemical found in German chamomile. Additional compounds include the terpenoid Humulene, which is part of the flavor of Vietnamese Mint. When infused in water, the leaves are used to create a household disinfectant and a wash to treat irritated skin.
We could be wrong, but we don't think deer will eat this leafy medicine cabinet.
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.