Get to know Salvia!
Salvia is a genus of plants related to the mint family (Lamiaceae). This huge plant family can be confusing because some of the relatives simply don’t look (or act) like the others. Salvia varieties can be found as perennials, biennials and annuals. The heat of summer brings most Salvia’s into prime beauty in the garden and now is the time to get to know more about them.
This is sage
Most think of sage (Salvia) as the common herb that flavors turkey dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. As you discover this large family of plants, you will notice that there is much diversity. Culinary, medicinal, cosmetic, aromatic and useful in landscape design. Not all are edible, some are intensely fragrant, one is mind-altering when smoked, and some are just simply floriferous and nothing more.
Get to know some of the Salvia family:
Salvia officinalis: Commonly called garden sage; these are the ones you cook with and have the most desired qualities for skin care and remedies. They are shrubby, woody perennials that are hardy, drought tolerant and deer resistant.
The leaf color and texture of golden sage (S. officinalis ‘Aurea’), purple sage (S. officinalis ‘Purpurea’) and Berggarten sage (S. officinalis ‘Berggarten’) also make them an attractive addition to a herb garden and landscape.
Sage is the herb of wisdom. Ancient herbalists praised it for improving brain function, and for memory and dementia. The Romans had a saying, “Cur morietur homo, cui salvia crescuit in horto?” (How can a man die who has sage growing in his garden?) Historical usage has even made sage a synonym for the word “wise”.
The leaves are used fresh and dried. They impart a rich, earthy fragrance when the essential oils release from the plant. Highly astringent, use as a topical wash for cleaning up oily, dirty skin. Sage is a strong disinfectant that when infused into water is a good addition to spray mists with lavender and mints. A hair rinse made with sage water or a leaf poultice will darken hair color and make hair smooth and shiny.
Wisdom Toner and Aftershave
For this toner and aftershave, combine common garden sage with English lavender buds and allow to steep in natural witch hazel.
The witch hazel lends its cleansing and pore tightening properties to the skin renewing herbal mix. The recipe can be found on page 125 of the Herb Lover’s Spa book!
Red Sage: (Salvia miltiorrhiza) is one of the most reputable medicinally used sages. The root is used as an important tonic herb in Chinese medicine (Dan Shen). The roots are valued as a blood purifier and nerve calmative.
Sacred Sage (Salvia apiana) : A beautiful silvery, narrow-leaved sage that has a long history of use as food and medicine for native American tribes along the Pacific coast. Prized for use in smudge sticks for purification and religious ceremonies.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans) A annual in most climates this large sage is most noted for its brilliant red flowers that are a hummingbird magnet in the late summer. The golden variety (Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’) will add striking foliage texture to the garden. The leaves have a fresh pineapple fragrance and can be used as a garnish or salads. Use the leaves in tea (the leaves lose their flavor when subjected to high heat, so they are best for sun tea mixes)
Salvia divinorum: I got to know more about this sage when kids in high school asked my daughter if her mom, the plant nerd, could hook them up with some Salvia. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/salvia. Have you seen the “Gardening on Salvia” video? (Warning if you google the YouTube version, it has been hacked up with some nasty comments, the link is a cleaner version) The “Driving on Salvia” makes me LOL when the cat jumps on the windshield…but I digress.
Perennial and other floriferous Salvias
These are cultivars for long blooming color in the garden.
Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’
Salvia nemorosa ‘East Friesland’
Salvia x sylvestris ‘May Night’
Autumn sages (Salvia greggii):
Tender perennials typically only hardy to USDA Zone 7. These will bloom early summer to late fall. Look for the varieties ‘Lipstick’, ‘Furman’s Red’ and Desert Blaze Texas sage (Salvia greggii ‘Variegata’)
Other cool cultivars:
Hot Lips (Salvia microphylla)
Black and Blue (Salvia guaranitica)
There are many more! Explore more here: https://www.plantdelights.com/blogs/articles/perennial-salvia-plants
Salvia ‘Amistad’: deep purple flowers that are almost black in the bud stage.
Salvia ‘Blue Victoria’, ‘Dwarf Purple’ and ‘Dwarf Red’ are common annuals used for long-standing color in container gardens and annual bedding.