Simple, Beautiful Clary Sage

sageWhen 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.

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Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate


Not long ago, a friend stopped by bearing gifts of flowers and herbs — lavender and rosemary tied in bundles, marguerite daisies and bunches of four o’clocks that she’d picked along the way to my house. But the flower that captivated me was a sweet, rose-colored thing, an unusual blossom called kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate.

Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate (Polygonum orientale) is an old-fashioned annual, not widely known but easy to grow from New England to the California coast. It shares the genus Polygonum with a number of evergreen and deciduous annuals, perennials and vines including the sprawling silver lace vine (P. aubertii), the bamboolike Japanese knot- weed (P. cuspidatum) and a number of common weeds. Once established, it self-sows readily, bearing splashes of color in summer and fall. Not only is the name charming, evoking images of young lovers sneaking kisses over the garden fence, but the blossoms are delicate and delightful.

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