Sage, with all of its’ wonderful variations in colour, is probably the most useful of all herbs in landscaping the Western Australian garden.
In a mass planting, sages are so eye-catching that passers-by can’t help but stop for a look and are often puzzled by the wonderful leaves that look so familiar.
Many gardeners know the soft grey-green leaves of common sage, Salvia officinalis, which they regularly harvest to cook with their poultry and pork or add to their stuffing and sauces. But there are colourful variations of sage that can be used in exactly the same way and have the added benefit of giving vibrancy to the garden that is simply stunning.
Tricolour sage, S. officinalis ‘Tricolor’, has streaks of white and pink on its’ grey-green leaves that almost look like they have been delicately painted on by an artist.
Purple sage, S. officinalis ‘Purpurea’, has leaves that blend from violet to green which seem to change in depth as the sun moves across them.
Golden sage, S. officinalis ‘Aurea’, leaves are a beautiful chartreuse-yellow with splashes of dark green around the veins.
Sage is a hardy perennial which grows to approximately 60 centimetres and is able to tolerate very harsh conditions, even the salt and winds off the ocean. It prefers a sunny, well-drained position in soil that has been built up with manure and other organic matter. One long soaking of water a week with just one application of complete fertiliser in spring is enough to keep sage healthy and packed with flavour.
Occasionally, sage may be affected by mealy bug at the base of its’ stem and these can be controlled with a good application of Confidor. Caterpillars can also take a liking to the leaves but a spray of Dipel will help keep these pests under control.
All of the sages benefit from a hard prune at the beginning of spring once the weather starts to warm and, should you want to produce more plants, this can easily be done through layering. This technique involves piling a few centimetres of compost or potting mix at the base of the established plant every few weeks and allowing roots to form at the base of the stems. These can then be carefully pulled away from the main stem and replanted elsewhere in the garden.
Edible landscaping is not only beautiful but an ingenious way of getting great value out of the garden.