Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I (can't) grow sage

Garden Sage, Salvia officinalis affected by root rot
Out of my current batch of a hundred or so sage seedlings I am hoping to get at least a few which go on to reach maturity and become large healthy bushes. I think the trick is to avoid overhead watering if possible as moisture around the base of the plant and on the leaves creates ideal conditions for the spread of the fungus which causes the rot. (Fusarium solani and Rhizoctonia solani) Living in a cool dry climate with zero humidity also helps, as well as providing an alkaline, gritty, free draining soil.
The old Arabian proverb "How can a man die who has sage in his garden?" and the fact that sage is traditionally the herb which has a centuries old track record for helping shield against declining faculties and failing memory has stirred me into the task of growing it
successfully.   Sharp as a tack at eighty you bet....
 I am also growing the red leaf sage (S. officinalis 'Purpurascens') pictured below. It is a bit of a gloomy looking plant, though in a good light the leaves have that purple bloom of a summer sugar plum.
The name Salvia is from the Latin salveo or "I am well" and the colloquial corruption of the name became sange in old French and sauge in old English. Midwives in France were known to use sage leaves macerated in a liquore to be given "aux femmes qui vont prochainement accoucher." Expectant fathers probably needed a swig as well.

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