28 October 2013

Favorite Cheap Plant

I was at the spring Strawberry Festival in Delaplane Virginia two years ago, with its bluegrass bands, raptors, food booths, organ grinder monkey, and craft vendors. The bluegrass and raptors were great, as was the kettle corn and strawberry shortcake booths. Between all the country rag dolls and tree stump clocks and chairs there was a plant vendor literally tucked into the corner.

Containers of strawberries were being scarfed up at incredibly high prices. And the containers were labeled Driscoll's just like those in the local supermarkets. I asked if Driscoll's supplied the containers for free. "No, Driscoll's grew the strawberries in California." Strawberry harvest time in Virginia can vary widely, so to be sure there are strawberries available for the festival, they are flown in from California. We stopped at a farm on the way home to field pick our own from local growers.

Back at the plant vendor and looking for something cheap, I ended up at the small-potted herbs and succulents table. I picked up a pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), and was informed about its care and planting instructions. Only a few dollars buys chartreuse leaves with a pineapple fragrance. "Be sure to take cuttings in the fall, or repot it and bring it indoors to keep it going."

It went into the side yard garden where it comfortably grew during the summer. Then in the late fall, these incredible 12-inch (30 cm) red spires appeared above the leaves, just as the world turns mums and orange. Is it the contrast against the lime green leaves that cause the red to jump out?

Repot in the fall? Sure, right. All the dead things are being ripped out of the garden and football calls on the weekend. Spring bulbs are lucky to get planted the week before Christmas. Still, leaves were raked, chopped, and spread around the beds for the winter.

It grows up to 3-feet in height (1 m) as a bush in its native Mexico highlands where hummingbirds love it. In the salvia genus, it is used in traditional Mexican medicine, for anxiety and high blood pressure treatment. A preliminary study shows antidepressant and antianxiety properties in mice. The internet presents concoctions for teas made from the leaves, and P. Allen Smith has a recipe for Pineapple Sage Pound Cake.

This spring, the little cheap pineapple sage came back. And, it had two babies from seeds or rooted from fallen stems. Does it like me or what?

For The Record:
  • Clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun on a sloping site
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Overwintered with small amount of protection


flwrjane said...
Mine is blooming away quite happily. I love everything about it, the leaves, the scent, the flowers, all make me happy.

Sometimes they return, sometime they die.

But I always have one.

xo J
Swimray said...
Dont' say that. If it died, I would need to spend another $1 for a new one.
Les said...
If you ever see one labeled 'Golden Delicious' for an equally cheap price, scarf that up too.
Swimray said...
I will look for one. Sounds different and interesting.
Janet QueenofSeaford said...
This beauty was profiled in Southern Living recently. I planted one this spring....took a few cuttings and crossing my fingers it comes back..then I will have a few! Love it!