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Turkish Natives
Turkish Natives

There's a cool bluish haze o'er the meadow not to mention the mountains, desert cliffs, and plateaus of Turkey. Although there are other flower colors among the country's wide variety of sages -- including creams, pinks, whites and yellows – the blue spectrum abounds.

Imagine the iridescent blues, lavenders, purples and violets of peacock feathers and you can picture a canvas of Salvia species native to the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern nation. Other notable and valuable characteristics of many Turkish Salvias include:

  • Ability to withstand winter temperatures ranging from the deep chill of USDA Zone 5 to the mild climate of Zone 9;
  • Tolerance of severe summer heat;
  • Adaptability of many species to dry conditions in shade or full sunlight; and
  • Vigor at altitudes similar to those of America's high plains.

Turkey encompasses a broad range of climates and geographical features. For a relatively small country (a bit bigger in landmass than Texas) it is rich in plant diversity. This is because three major plant geographical regions converge there -- the Irano-Turanian (Iran), the Mediterranean and the Euro-Siberian. Thirty percent of the country's roughly 12,000 native species are endemic, which means they occur nowhere else in the wild without human intervention. About 50 percent of its nearly 100 species of native Salvias are endemic.

Gardeners who live in areas where temperatures swing broadly between frigid winters and fiery summers, such as in the Rocky Mountain West and on dry high-plains lands, find that Turkish Salvias are well suited to their local climate.

Although many of these colorful, tough plants are drought resistant and prefer dry conditions, others love moisture and tolerate regular watering. Dependent on the climates to which they were adapted in their native land, they do well in settings such as dry gardens, rock gardens, moist corners of the yard, woodland displays and cut flower gardens.

(Stem Clasping Violet Sage)  Like a candelabra lit up with whorls of violet blossoms, the erect, branching flower spikes of Salvia amplexicaulis make this native of Southeastern Europe shine. On the Grecian island of Thassos, it brightens areas near the beach.

(Iranian Oil Sage) Butterflies and honeybees are drawn to the long blooming, dusky violet-blue flowers of Salvia atropatana. However, deer say no to its charms, due to its essential oils being less than tasty.

(Turkish Tea Sage) Sometimes an attractive plant is also medically powerful. That's true of the lavender flowered Salvia aucheri, which has strong white beelines. This Turkish native is consumed as an ingredient in teas used as folk remedies for many problems, including abdominal bloating and infections.

(Wand Sage) Whorls of deep violet blossoms are cupped by dark bracts on the flower spikes of this mid-height herbaceous sage from Turkey. Its foliage is thick, corrugated and fragrant. This plant is lovely and hardy, so it is surprising that it wasn’t introduced to commercial cultivation until 2007.

(Anatolian Cushion Sage) Rising up only 6 to 8 inches, this is a pixie-sized sage that loves gritty soils. It is perfect for dry gardens with gritty soils in USDA Zones 5 to 9. In fact, it seems to love the colder zones best. We think it is particularly fond of frozen ground in winter, because that helps keep its roots from getting too damp.

(Woolly White Sage) Salvia candidissima has tidy, upright stems covered with whorls of creamy white blossoms shaped like tiny parrot beaks. They rise from a mid-green rosette of leaves that become fuzzier and whiter as summer heat increases.

(Caucasus Sage) This hardy ground cover sage grows 4 to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The velvety white fur of its foliage aids moisture retention. Its soft, royal purple flowers make it stand out. We think this Salvia deserves to spread far and wide.

(Golden Leaf Sage) A tinge of gold in its fuzzy, pebbled foliage gives Salvia chrysophylla its common name. Abundant lavender flowers with pale cream lower lips make it stand out in the landscape.

(Blue Turkish Sage) Large velvety gray-green to white leaves in loose rosettes give this sage a distinctive look as does the celestial violet-blue of its flowers. The blossoms seem much too large for this short sage and its thin, candelabra-branched flower spikes.

(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.

(Elk Dwarf 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 western Asia. This is an extremely compact variety with dark green leaves, quite different in appearance compared with the common species.

(Greek Sage) Most of the dried culinary sage sold in the United States is Greek Sage. Frescoes on the island of Crete dated to 1400 BC depict this plant, which was used by the Phoenicians and Greeks for cooking and medicine. It is an ancient and beloved friend of mankind.

(Jupiter's Distaff) Easy to grow and adaptable to a wide range of conditions, this native of Europe and Asia is our best tall, yellow-flowering perennial. Although its common name compares the flower spikes to wool spindles, they look more like glowing sceptres.

(Turkish Salt Sage) The common name for this plants comes from the latin halophila - salt loving. It is endemic to the central Anatolian basin in Turkey, a very diverse ecosystem of salt steppe and saline lakes. For the gardener it is a tough, hardy perennial with a most impressive floral display from early summer till fall.

(Yugoslavian Cut Leaf Sage) This is a rare Baltic steppe plant that grows beautifully in sunny locations with little water and excellent drainage. It is endemic to a the Orlova Brdo region of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

(Wooly Arabian Sage) "Radiant" is the word that garden writer and Salvia specialist Betsy Clebsch uses to describe the halo of white hairs covering the foliage and calyxes of Salvia lanigera.

(Nodding Sage) "Dancing in the air" is how garden writer Joseph Tychonievich describes the tall, graceful flower spikes of Nodding Sage, which can tower up to 5 feet tall over the plant's 18-inch-tall foliage during the summer flowering season.

(Turkish Cliff Sage) Spring into early summer, Turkish Cliff Sage produces erect, branching flower spikes 24 to 36 inches long that rise from basal foliage. They’re covered with whorls of pale pink blossoms with delicate white markings.

(The Queen's Sage) Regal spikes of lavender-to-purple flowers give weight to this sage's common name. It provides a stately show of bloom during summer in USDA Zones 6 to 10. Cold hardy and heat tolerant, this impressive perennial comes from the mountains of Turkey.

(Clary or Clear Eye Sage or Eyebright) Pink-purple bracts and violet-purple flowers form a pastel cloud over the large, rumpled leaves of Clary Sage in summer. It is a towering beauty growing up to 5 feet tall. Sacred to some due to age-old use in herbal remedies, it is heavenly to look at.

(Iranian Sage)  Mixed in with short perennials that bloom over a wide range of seasons, Salvia staminea makes an attractive contribution to short borders during its summer bloom time. Our strain has dark bracts surrounding pastel white-to-blue-to-lavender flowers. The dark green, branching foliage has oblong to oval-shaped leaves.

(Siberian Sage) Deep violet flowers surrounded by burgundy bracts form a handsome contrast with the pebbly, mint green foliage of this drought-resistant sage. It comes from the Central Asian steppe, which is similar in climate and geography to America’s high plains.

(Romanian Sage) Here's a great selection for mixed Salvia borders in zones with colder winters. This herbaceous perennial features deep violet flowers in large whorls atop tall, branched spikes.

(Lilac Sage) We try not to brag too much, but this is our own variety of Salvia verticillata from home-grown seed, and we think it is spectacular. Butterflies and honeybees also are in love with this long-blooming perennial beauty.

(White Lilac Sage) Dense whorls of white, instead of lavender, blossoms cover tall flower spikes of this long-blooming perennial that tolerates both heat and cold. They rise up from fragrant, mint-green foliage.