When friends drop by in summer, they always stop at the gate to see the clary sage that graces the border of the herb garden. Its impressive, heart-shaped, velvety leaves fan out as big as a hand and are pungently fragrant. By August, tiny blossoms and showy pastel bracts nod on tall, square stems, attracting bees and even an occasional hummingbird.
Clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is a biennial or short-lived perennial herb – an old-world type of plant that’s easy to propagate and effortless to grow. The variety turkestaniana, with larger floral bracts in shades of lilac pink, is the choice of most gardeners for its broader splashes of misty color.
The clary sage is rich with the history of Europe and Great Britain’s physick gardens, containing plants and herbs grown for their medicinal properties. Medieval healers knew it as “clear eye” because the plant’s seed was said to clear the sight.