Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Salvia elegans, Pineapple Sage

Plant of the Week #8
Salvia elegans, Pineapple Sage

Here's another winter bloomer - as of December 7th it was blooming and had been for about 3 weeks. This is a pretty tender plant in this climate, and with the first hard frost the leaves will brown and that will be that until late spring. It seems to lag most perennials by 3 months. When others are blooming profusely in June, this salvia is just starting to bud. I made the mistake of cutting it back too much last winter and that probably slowed the growth even more, but it fully recovered and doubled in size from the previous year by August.

Like other plants in our drought tolerant parking strips (the only part of our yard we've planted so far because of the endless exterior renovations...), the sage received no water over the summer. Crush the leaves and you do get a pineapple scent, it's pretty cool. The books say 3-5' tall, and "Pineapple sage is a semiwoody subshrub in USDA zones 9-11, and an herbaceous perennial, dying to the ground in winter but resprouting in spring, in zones 8-9. Gardeners in colder areas grow pineapple sage as an annual, or bring it indoors in the winter. Pineapple sage grows naturally in oak and pine scrub forests at elevations from 8,000-10,000 feet elevation in Mexico and Guatemala." It's growing under an oak now, one of our six baby Quercus phellos, the willow oak.

There are 700 species of salvia. Like most mints, Salvia elegans has square stems, opposite leaves and is edible. We have yet to try it, but apparently it is tasty in a salad and makes a great garnish in a cocktail. Actually, that's not a bad idea - gotta go...

Next week: Quercus phellos? Revisit the Black Lace Elderberry? Arbutus menziesii?

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