Sunday, July 5, 2009

Isn't She Lovely?

This profusion of purple is salvia 'Winifred Gillman,' a cultivar of the California native Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii). I adore this plant for its tiered whorls of petite violent blooms, and the maroon-tinted stems. (A cultivar is a clone, reproduced by cuttings instead of seeds. In this case, it's an interesting variation of clevelandii.)

It also smells divine--or, rather, earthly, as it's sweet-spicy-conifer smell recalls the Southern California hillsides where clevelandii grows wild. The most frequent comment I get about my front yard is, "It smells amazing." My three dear 'Winifreds' are largely responsible, although you'll get a similar aroma from several sages.

Plant salvias and your garden will be blessed with bees, butterflies and birds. Hummingbirds sip nectar from my 'Winifred Gillmans' and my Salvia spathacea (commonly called hummingbird sage), as do bees. Birds will feast on the seeds that develop if you don't prune the spent blooms. And why would you? The globe-shaped calyx (a protective structure at the base of the blossoms) is also lovely.

The only hitch: M. Nevin Smith, author of Native Treasures: Gardening with the Plants of California says 'Winifred' needs well draining soil, more so than other sages.

More on gardening with California native plants.

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