Saturday, May 20, 2006


I have long admired Betsy Clebsch for putting to paper her passionate devotion to the genus Salvia. Timber Press, my hands-down favorite publisher, introduced A Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden in 1997. It was expanded in 2003 to include 50 new species and cultivars and this new edition will no doubt find its way onto my bookshelf.

The recent renovation of my overgrown herb garden now includes eight species of Salvia. I did not intentionally plan to include so many. It is a happy coincidence that has already set me to thinking about including more obscure Salvia cousins. But until I can carve out additional garden space I will happily enjoy the the following:

S. coccinea 'Coral Nymph'
S. farinacea 'Blue Bedder'
S. greggii 'San Takao'
S. nemorosa 'Caradonna'
S. officinalis 'Berggarten'
S. officinalis 'Icterena'
S. officinalis 'Purpurascens'
S. patens 'Blue Angel'
S. splendens 'Whopper Lighthouse'
S. viridis 'Marble Arch Rose'
S. viridis 'Blue Denim'

'Blue Bedder', 'Blue Angel', 'Marble Arch Rose', 'Blue Denim' and 'Whopper Lighthouse' were grown from seed. I have in the past grown 'Coral Nymph' from seed as well. 'Caradonna' came from Audubon Workshop, one of several daughter companies of Gardens Alive!, and was a happy surprise. The bareroot plants were healthy and shot quickly into respectable plants in gallon pots before being transplanted into the garden. This cultivar is particularly beautiful, with deep blue-violet flowers borne on dark purple-black stems. It was discovered as a sport seedling of S. "Wasuve" by Zillmer nursery in Germany and went on to be awarded Outstanding New Perennial award by the International Hardy Plant Union. I bought these using a $25 introductory coupon and am experiencing the satisfaction bordering on smugness that comes from scoring a great bargain.

The planting commenced today and all are now enjoying spring rain to water them in. A few days of sun and I expect these Salvias to start growing into the beautiful specimens that Ms. Clebsch so lovingly describes.

Friday, May 12, 2006


I was recently reminded in the most intense way that lavenders are a very diverse group. I purchased a Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas 'Bella Rose' and placed it on the truck seat for the trip home. The small Toyota cab soon filled with a strong but not unpleasant camphor fragrance laced with classic lavender overtones.

The level of camphor volatiles in Spanish lavender is significantly higher than in the L. angustifolia or L.x intermedia. The fragrance lingered in the truck for a week, a bracing little jolt to start the day, and every bit as effective as a cup of coffee.

In spite of this experience I was surprised by the fragrance of the Fernleaf lavender, L. multifida, that I planted from seed this winter. It is described as "pungent". The fragrance is sharp and unexpected but the plant is attractive and rates a spot in the garden, maybe next to a lovely 'Hidcote blue'. I can inhale the heady fragrance of the neighboring plant and enjoy the striking blossoms of the fernleaf.

So many lavenders, so little time.