Sunday, August 5, 2007

Principally Perovskia (Russian Sage)

When I designed my "hellstrips" I knew that the plant/bush that I wanted as the mainstay would be Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). I planted about 20 of them. Not only do I love the beautiful blue/purple color, but they help take up a lot of space. To break up the long strips I planted what I call "vignettes" of Perovskia and several companion plants, broken by smaller plantings to allow access and add variety. I purchased them from many different nurseries and in many different sizes. In early Spring I cut them back to about 10-12" hoping that they will stay more compact. As you can see, they don't. They might possibly be a little too tall for use in hellstrips, but I find them to be very dramatic, especially when driving down the street. Believe me, you want to have plenty of room for most of these beauties.

If you are interested in learning more about this gorgeous bush High Country Gardens has some information about growing and purchasing them in most of their catalogs. Their 2007 Fall Edition states they are "one of the most common plants in new western xeriscapes..." They show suggestions for companion plants as well.

Perovskias can add a beautiful look to the winter landscape. The branches turn a soft, textural and "filmy" white. Before the first heavy snow I trim back some of the longer branches on the bottom and try to cut back on the weight they must hold. This helps quite a bit. But sometimes if the snow is early it will take them to their knees. These bushes I trim back quite a bit so that they are not too stressed.

I am in my second year of an experiment (holding my breath every time) to see if trimming the plants back before they set flowers will help make them stronger and better able to withstand storms. See what you think. I think it may be worth it.

Here are the plants that are the "control" in my experiment. They were not trimmed back. The flowers are "fluffier" and they may be a deeper blue, but you can see what happens when we get a lot of moisture. The Perovskia in the first photo does get some shade, but the second one is in full sun all of the time.

The following photos show the Perovskia's that I trimmed back just before they began to bud. You can see that they look "thinner," but seem to be standing more upright. And they are not flopping as much. There are a couple of different forms of the plant here and I'm sorry that I do not have the information at hand as to which they are. I will go back to when I planted them and see if I can post that. There are forms (High Country lists them) that stand up better.

I wish I had more room to truly show off these beautiful shrubs. I would love to see them on a dry hillside with other rugged companions to do them justice. However, we garden with what we have and not what we would like to have. Right? So, I enjoy them where they are and get many compliments from people passing by. My favorite thing to do is to stroll along them in the early morning when the sun is back lighting them, and seeing all the little bees still asleep in their blossoms.


LostRoses said...

Umm, regardless of what you think, Bev, I think you're doing a darn good job of showing off these beautiful shrubs! It must be breathtaking to drive down your street. Now that's a hellstrip!

Blue perovskia?? Must have it! I haven't gotten a High Country Gardens catalog in a long time, I must get back on their mailing list. And I agree that all the snow sitting on them for months couldn't have helped a thing, but whatever you're doing, you're doing it right! What a gorgeous post.

Pam/Digging said...

I've always loved Russian sage, but I've never made a place for it in my garden. After seeing your gorgeous curb planting, I am reconsidering that. Beautiful!

Bev said...

LR - Thanks for your continued visits to my blog. I always enjoy hearing from you and love your sense of humor. I think some of the color in the photos (depends on the time of day) may make them look a little more blue than they actually are. The morning light tends to do this, I think. I should probably color adjust, but just don't want to spend the time.

I love to "day dream" with the HC catalogs. When I get them I go through and mark everything I want to order. Then I usually come to my senses in a few days. My checkbook appreciates this.

Pam - I would think that the sages would do beautifully in your area. I do have a couple tucked in among a couple of places where they really don't have enough room, but they make such pretty companions and do well pretty good. I even have one with my roses.

Pam/Digging said...

Yes, Russian sage grows well here. But I ended up going with Mexican bush sage and 'Indigo Spires' salvias instead, where I wanted late-blooming, medium-sized perennials. They're great too, but the grass is always greener---I mean, the sage is always purpler.

Colleen said...

Now that it a hell strip! I love that Russian sage/Yarrow combination, too. I think you're right...the Russian sages that you trimmed definitely seem stronger. I keep meaning to plant my hell strip. I'll be looking at this post for inspiration when I finally decide to go for it :-)

Connie said...

Have you ever read a book called "The Well-tended Perennial Garden" by Tracy DiSabato-Aust? She gives great advice for cutting plants back before they bloom, to keep them tidy, or delay or stagger flowering, etc. A recommended read!
Your hellstrip gardens are lovely, too lovely to be called a hellstrip. :-)

Bev said...

Pam, I'm going to look into the Indigo Spires salvia...sounds like something that we go well with some of my others.

Colleen, I'm glad I can be an inspiration to you. It really is fun to see how creative you can be with these strips. Wish I had cut back the other R.Sages because we've had 2 3/4" rain the last 3 days and they are really drooping now!

Connie, thanks for reminding me of that book. I read it last year and you are right, it is a great book. Worth buying to have at hand. Think I should purchase rather than getting at the library.

Tim said...

Hi Bev
Thanks for the blog, we are fairly new Coloradans, arrived last September and have been looking for things to grow on our plot that will survive the winter and bloom the following year. You gave us lots of ideas.
Thanks, Tim

Anonymous said...

Hi, Bev - you snet me a message about how to start a blog, and I really appreciated it. I haven't started one yet, but I'm looking into it. I thank you for the photos of the Russian sage. I had seen a lot of it growing around here (NH) and I wasn't sure what it was. Now I know I want to try some next year - thanks again. Betty

Ewa said...

Hello Bev,
I keep turing back to these perovskias - they are so beautiful! and composition you made is also great. I love to look at it. Thank you for sharing,