The Weekly Gardener 1



Purple Sage


Please take a moment to admire the prolific sage, which took over the herb garden last summer, before I trim its expansionist habits. It bore clusters of lavender blue flowers, so pretty to behold that I ignored good gardening practices and neglected to prune it, and now I'm looking at the consequences. The marjoram didn't last a month, and I really, really wanted to have it, so, sage will be encouraged to behave itself this spring, maintain an appropriate size, stop crowding the thyme and not sprawl all over the lawn.

Sage is easily propagated by wood cuttings, so I've heard, but I never actually tried this method myself. I did try starting it from seed, and can attest to the fact that it isn't an easy plant to propagate that way. The method does work, however, if you have your heart set on it. As a matter of fact, I think we might be looking at the seed started plant, but I can't be sure.

It really likes clay, as you can tell, and I was surprised to learn that it too is evergreen, although during really frigid winters it will die down to the ground completely.

There are two basic types of herbs, and they like different growing conditions, so don't mix them up in the border: the sun lovers - rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, oregano, which thrive in dry soils and full sun, and the moisture lovers - mint, lemon balm, chives, parsley, dill, and basil, which need to be watered regularly and protected from excessive heat in order to be happy.

There is also a third category, which likes full sun, but needs to keep its roots cool and moist; lovage, marjoram and lemon verbena belong to this category. These herbs tend to take their time to adapt to a place, and will grow very large if they like their conditions, but that doesn't happen very often.


Winter Lavender


I know what you are thinking, lavender in winter, right? We didn't actually have winter yet, so that probably explains it.

I tried lavender for many years before this one finally took. I'm not sure what happened this time, maybe it is its location on a sunny slope, or that it is somewhat sheltered, or the fact that the local climate is slowly warming up and shifting closer to its comfort range.

Last year I got my first harvest of lavender buds, of which I'm very proud, and the plant continued to bloom sporadically throughout the summer.

Although the lavender buds are the choice crop, the foliage is fragrant too, and will do fine in potpourris and herb sachets.

If you want beautiful flowers that attract bees to your garden, try Spanish, or butterfly lavender. It has a little clump of petals at the end of the inflorescence, which makes it look like a butterfly just landed on it. Spanish lavender likes hot and humid summers and will not survive winter outdoors north of zone nine. In colder climate zones it is sold as an annual. It is not the first choice for cooking and medicinal uses, that honor belongs to the French lavender, which, in turn, will not survive climates colder than zone seven.

English lavender is the choice for those of us who live in areas with cold winters, up to zone five. It is winter hardy, fragrant, flowers abundantly and will grace your garden for many years.