The Salvia genus is where we find all our sages and it’s very easy to fall in love with this group of plants from the mint family. Take mind, it is huuge! So many members, ranging from annuals to perennials, medicinal, culinary, hallucinatory and ornamental. Something for everyone!
It’s a wet miserable often hailing day today. But I have a stash of photos put away here, so I’d like to introduce you to my wee collection, it’s by no means huge but I’m proud of it!
Let’s start with Salvia officinalis, common sage…
He that would live for aye
Should eat sage in May.
OLD ENGLISH SAYING
Salvia officinalis is a wonderful herb if not an essential herb to have on hand. Apart from its culinary uses I use it a lot in winter for sore throats, either as a tea/infusion or you can make a decoction and use it as a gargle. The volatile oils sooth the mucous membranes, useful for the inflammation of mouth, gums, tongue, throat and tonsils. Sage can also help women at various stages of their life; due to the tannins and estrogenic substances found in sage, taking the infusion frquently can help dry up mothers milk, lessen excessive bleeding during menses and reduce sweating during perimenopausal time. DO NOT TAKE SAGE MEDICINALLY WHEN PREGNANT. There are many other uses, but these are the ones that I have used sage for.
Salvia purpurea, can be used just like Salvia officinalis. Salvia Icterina, varigated sage, is more ornamental but can be used culinarily in a pinch as can the beautiful tri-coloured sage.
Unfortunately I must admit that both my varigated and tri-coloured sages did not survive the transition when we moved here over a year ago, very sad.
Next in the line up is the all time most popular herb that I sell.. Salvia apiana, White sage…
White sage, in New Zealand is mainly used for smudging, personally, I use it more as a “keep-me-calm-and-happy” tonic by putting a fresh leaf in my (or my kids, or all of us!) water bottle to sup on for the day. I’ve also used it in a headache balm I made with lavender and peppermint. For more info on white sage, go to the side bar to find my articles on growing and caring for your white sage plant. If you would like to grow your own, contact me and I’ll put you on my “White sage email list” to let you know when I have more in stock.
Onwards to Salvia sclarea, Clary sage. The particular clary sage I grow is “turkenstania” which is a powerful white flowering variety, it is amazing as an ornamental, back filler and/or fragrant herb.
Medicinally Clary sage is probably most well known as an essential oil which is made from the seeds. The seeds are also what give Clary sage its country name “Clear Eyes”, the mucilage that the seeds create can help soothe eye irritation caused by foreign bodies. I tried this with my husband.. don’t think I did it right… poor man!
Moving on… Another wonderfully scented salvia is Salvia elegans, Pineapple sage. Mmmm hmmm, this is one delicious smelling plant and because it’s the leaves not the flowers that are scented you’ve got it all year round.
A lot of salvias have flowers especially made for hummingbirds, Pineapple sage flowers give you a perfect example of tubes fit for a long skinny hovering beak (FYI seeing a real life hummingbird is on my bucket list). On a cultivating note, over the last two years I’ve noticed that my pineapple sage plants that are in semi shaded positions are doing better than the ones in full sun. This is something that I know other people have noticed with their plants that usually are “best” in full sun, basils for example, this will most likely come up more and more as our environment deteriorates.
Lets meet Salvia confertiflora now, sometimes known as red velvet sage, but I recently, can’t think where, saw a plant labelled red velvet sage and it wasn’t confertiflora. Knowing botanical names and ensuring plants you buy have their botanical names on their labels is really very important if you care about knowing what you’re talking about!
The leaves have a very pungent smell, not entirely pleasant but quite unique. I don’t know of any medicinal uses with this plant, but gives your garden a lovely tropical feel and wax eyes love their flowers. If you live in a frost free area they can grow quite tall.
Did you know that chia seeds, the super food that most people have heard of these days is a salvia? Yah ha, so I planted some this year!
This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago, it’s flowering now, glorious purple spikes a lot like the following photo. Next season I will sow earlier (I sowed in late November) because I don’t think I’ll have many seeds to harvest before knarly weather and frosts do their worst to the plants.
This is Salvia farinacea, Victoria blue. It was my understanding that it was an annual, but it’s still growing strong in its second year, I’m not complaining, the flowers are an amazing colour. This is a pure ornamental salvia, the leaves don’t even have a scent.
There is another salvia that I have where the leaves have no scent, which surprised me and made me quadruple check that what I had (I had been given a cutting) was actually what I was told it was… Salvia divinorum. If you know what this is please don’t get over-excited, I’m still getting my own plant established (and learning how it grows best) before I can consider propagating off it to sell plants.
Salvia divinorum has psychoactive properties and Mazatec shamans have a long and continuous tradition of religious use of Salvia divinorum to facilitate visionary states of consciousness during spiritual healing sessions (thank you Wikipedia). Considering it comes from the montane cloud forests of Oaxaca, Mexico, I might have a good chance of it growing well here in Eketahuna!
So not a massive collection but I love the diversity of it and hope to keep on finding new and interesting salvias to add to it. I’m not selling any plants at this time of year but I’ll be starting cuttings soon so let me know if you’re interested in any of these.
Keep warm and embrace the sun when you see it!