My new Chaparral Sage and I are getting along famously, although I must admit our relationship is still in the honeymoon stage. I just brought Mr. Salvia clevelandii home last Friday and planted him on Sunday.
Mid-April in Texas means plant sales, and I was delighted to come across this hardy sage at the recent Heard Museum spring sale. The beautiful gray-green leaves really caught my eye. Reading the label (which didn't provide a specific cultivar name), I learned my plant was hardy, evergreen and a rather large native. I'd never heard of Chaparral Sage previously...what had been keeping us apart all this time?!?
Well, into my cart it went. During the drive back home, I noticed the salvia's strong scent in the confines of the car. Nice.
I Googled Salvia clevelandii upon returning home and found some great information and pictures about this gorgeous plant. Dave's Garden members had of course contributed some fantastic photos, and I've included a few of them here.
Also called Cleveland Blue Sage, Cleveland Musk Sage or California Blue Sage, this plant isn't hardy above probably Zone 8. It is, however, extremely drought tolerant - although it certainly benefits from occasional deep waterings - and will turn into a 6' shrub if you let it. (Several cultivars, including ‘Winnifred Gilman', apparently only get about 3' tall, however.) It enjoys full sun and well-drained soil.
The flowers are odd-looking but extremely beautiful and very attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Deer apparently hate it. The flowers are hermaphrodites, having both male and female organs. Chaparral Sage will bloom during early summer.
Some cultivars feature a multi-tiered pagoda-shaped flower, while others apparently do not. The 'Allen Chickering' and 'Whirly Blue' types, which feature a more open and tall growth habit and have paler blue flowers, are considered to be Salvia clevelandii hybrids, while the previously mentioned ‘Winnifred Gilman' is thought to be the "true" plant.
A variety called ‘Alpine' was discovered near the town of Alpine in San Diego County. It has since proven to be hardy to below 10F, tolerant of clay or sand, and even fairly happy in a container.
According to the Western Horticultural Society website, the clevelandii variety ‘Betsy Clebsch' was named after one of their society members, who also happens to be a noted salvia expert and author. Ms. Clebsch's cultivar was selected from a group of plants being grown at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden and is distinguished by the variability of its flower color. Flowers on the same plant may be blue-lavender, white or bi-colored. It is somewhat smaller and more compact than the species, less than 3 ft. high and wide, and is also a little more difficult to grow.
Other known cultivars include ‘Anchor Bay', the highly fragrant ‘Aromas', ‘Pozo Blue' and ‘Santa Cruz Dark'.
Many gardeners report using the dried leaves and spent flowers of Salvia clevelandii as incense. Can't wait to give that a try! (It should also be noted that this is NOT the salvia causing panic among concerned parents as an illicit drug.)
After completing my research and writing this article about the new, fragrant addition to my garden, I have only one wish: that I'd bought several Chaparral Sages to enjoy.