It’s been well worth the wait…Clary sage, Salvia sclarea doesn’t flower til its second year but when it does it’s most dramatic and for plant geeks most exciting!
Let’s start from the start in how to grow these magnificent plants as there seems to be a lot of interest in clary sage.
Seeds can be sown from early spring to mid summer. The seeds germinate pretty reliably and don’t require any special teasing or molly coddling to come up and grow (unlike some other sages I know, S. Apiana I’m refering to you..) just light and water.
Don’t let the cute little seedlings fool you though.
When you plant them out these puppies need quite a lot of space, they grow huge! You want to give them a radius of about 80cm, particually if you have any low growing plants in the area. As they tend to say in gardening books for big tall plants – “best to grow in the back of the border”. With the flower spikes they grow to a height of over a meter.
The other consideration of course when planting out is that it’s in a nice dry position with a fair amount of sun…in summer AND winter. Once established they need the bare amount of watering. Then the wait begins for the flowers to come out next summer.
The colours range from pink, purple to white. The scent ranges from delightful lemony fragrance to smelly socks, dependant on the nose of the beholder!!
Side story; I came across a gardenia flowering the other day, I love its perfume so I excitidly told my daughter to take a whiff, she leant over and poooh! instantly screwed her face up and held her nose saying “Eurghh! What is that?!” Oh.
Now, apparently, S. sclareas’ first claim to fame was as an adulteration in various alcohol concoctions from Rhenish wines infused with elder flower to beers which “produced an effect of insane exhilararation of spirits succeeded by severe headache” (Mrs M. Grieve) Is that what they put in Beer Chang??
If you go to earthnotes website there’s a recipe for Clary wine amongst other fabolous/interesting herb and fruit based wines..
It’s the use of the seeds that gives clary sage its other name of “Cleareyes”. When soaked in water the seeds create a mucilage coating which can then be used to clear debris from the eye.
The most common use nowadays of clary sage is in its essential oil form. Which is kind of out of my jurisdiction but here’s a website that will tell you all about it!