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Sages Make Great Plants For Homes
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
For years I have been hooked on growing salvias like this year's Mississippi Medallion winner Victoria Blue, as well as the Mexican bush sage and others. But this is the first year I have grown Salvia elegans, or pineapple sage, which is a must in your garden or on your patio.
When touched, the leaves of the pineapple sage give the aroma of fresh crushed pineapple. The leaves can be used for drinks, poultry dishes, cheeses, fruit salad and jams and jellies. The young leaves can also be battered and fried and then dipped in a cream cheese dressing.
The pineapple sage produces spikes of scarlet red flowers that attract hummingbird as much as other gardeners. The flowers can be used as a garnish or added to salads and drinks.
Look for them in the herb section of your garden center and then plant in fertile, well-drained soils in full sun. They also make nice container plants for the porch or patio.
Pineapple sage is perennial in zone 8 and 9 and considered a tender perennial in zone 7. A friend of mine has over-wintered hers for years in a greenhouse and it is now about 7 feet tall.
Mexican bush sage is another must for the landscape. It is drought tolerant and produces a mass of flowers suitable for cutting. In cut-flower trials by the University of Georgia, it has consistently produced 150 to 200 cut flowers per plant.
The Mexican bush sage also blooms at a great time of the year. It starts budding up in August and will have spectacular blossoms until the first hard freeze. Since Mexican bush sage blooms on short days, if you grow it under a street light or floodlight, you will have a nice plant with no blooms.
It will need mulching to protect from extreme cold in the southern part of the state and should probably be treated as an annual in northern regions. It is not so much the extreme cold that will take it out as it is the combination of cold and wet together, so good drainage is essential in your planting.
I learned a trick from a garden center in Starkville called Zone 7. They had been growing the Mexican bush sage in front of their location, and since they were so pretty, I made plans to take a picture the next time I was in town.
When I went back a couple of weeks later, they were gone. I went in the store a little frustrated and asked what had happened to the Mexican bush sage flowers. A clerk showed me they had been cut and tied into bundles, and they looked wonderful.
When I went home and told my wife, Jan, about it, and she tied them into bundles with rosemary, cinnamon sticks and country-style ribbons. They have hung over the kitchen sink area for months, and they still look good! It gives your home that country magazine look.
This year you need to try some outstanding salvias, the Mississippi Medallion winning Victoria Blue, pineapple sage and the Mexican bush sage.