Edible Sages as Ornamentals

SAG mainSage is an important part of the autumn holidays, especially where cooking is concerned. Although we think of it primarily as a fresh seasoning, Sage presents a great opportunity to design an ornamental kitchen garden. Planted in a dish container, Sage varieties can be grown outside during the Indian summer and then brought indoors to spend the rest of the season near a south-facing window. Sage leaves can also be dried and used later.

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As an ornamental, Sage is surprisingly hardy in rocky, low-water situations. Use it as an accent to add color to rock gardens—when planted in spring, Sage provides spikes of dark blue flowers to the landscape. It is strongly deer-resistant as well. If you are designing xeriscapes or need water-hardy cultivars with color and performance, look to the Sages as handy additions to your toolbox.

Here are three Sages that taste good and look good at the same time:

Sage ‘Tricolor’

SAG Tricolor

This green-and-white variegated cultivar develops strong tints of pink in addition to its creamy white edges. Because of the tinting, some leaves are darker than others. The foliage is strongly aromatic.

Ornamentally, ‘Tricolor’ forms a woody herbaceous mound about 16 inches high and wide. Since the variegation is irregular but strong the presentation is showy—plus the pink intensifies as the season progresses. It can overwinter locally, as long as the winter is mild and the plant is protected.

Sage ‘Purple’

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Leaves emerge a steely gray-purple and as a young plant in an herb garden, they stay purple. In an ornamental planting the purple turns to green eventually, producing a two-toned bush about 24 inches high and 36 inches round. It’s a fast grower, with flower spikes that are light to dark purple in the early summer. ‘Purple’ combines well with lavenders.

Sage ‘Icterina’ or Golden Sage

SAG Icterina

This beautiful variety combines light green with golden hues and—if the lighting is right—it glows. The stronger the light, the more dramatic the marbling effect will become. Close-up, the leaves have a lightly pebbled texture.

In midsummer, spikes of violet-blue flowers appear. About the same size as ‘Tricolor’, ‘Icterina’ can be interplanted to add even more variegation to a garden bed.