Perennial salvia, also known as sage (but not the edible type), is a rewarding, easy-to-grow plant. Beautiful blooms range in color from brilliant purplish-blue to deep purple to light pink, and vary in height and habit as well. There is sure to be a salvia variety for every type of garden provided the conditions are right.
Salvia thrives in full sun to part shade, and even bright, dappled light if there is enough of it throughout the day. These plants prefer well-drained soil, so if you have heavy clay soil (typical of Hennepin County and much of Minnesota), be sure to amend your garden bed with compost to improve drainage.
Perennial sage requires little water, and may get stem rot if kept too wet. During the first year or two, be sure to keep salvia on a moderate watering schedule (once weekly), especially during dry spells, to establish strong roots. After the first couple years salvia will be drought tolerant, but will still do best with some water in extreme drought conditions.
Salvia will flower in early summer and the blooms can last several weeks. Spent blooms can be cut back, and in some varieties this will encourage the plant to re-bloom. Even without blooms, salvia is attractive in the landscape, offering sturdy, handsome foliage that pairs well with more delicate plants.
Beautiful in a mixed border, try pairing salvia with Karl Foerster grass, perennial geraniums, yarrow, daisies, black-eye Susan (Rudbeckia), and soft, silver-foliaged plants such as artemisia.
Salvia spires make a stunning addition to cut flower arrangements and provide food for hummingbirds and butterflies. As an added bonus, the sage scent that is so pleasing to many humans also makes these plants deer-resistant (but remember, deer will eat anything if their favorite food is not available).
To ready salvia for winter, cut stems to 2 inches above the ground after a killing frost. Consider mulching the plant with marsh hay or straw for added protection against a harsh winter.
Elderberry is a small, versatile shrub that is a great choice for edible landscaping or sharing with the birds. Tonkadale carries Black Beauty and Black Lace. Both varieties have dark foliage, can be grown in full or part sun (not many shrubs can claim that!) and both produce berries. Delicate pink flowers appear in summer and the shrubs will produce fruit in August and September.
The berries are bitter, so are usually not eaten raw. However, they make excellent jams or jellies, can be processed into breakfast syrup, or can even be used in making pies and wine. Otherwise, leave the berries and your feathered friends will thank you.
To plant elderberry shrubs, dig a hole only as deep as the pot, but twice as wide. After freeing the shrub from its pot, loosen the root ball with your fingers or score the bottom with a serrated knife if necessary. Set the shrub in the hole, amend the native soil with compost and topsoil and fill in around the plant. Water deeply to encourage roots to loosen further and grow downward.
Elderberry shrubs have shallow roots, so mulch around the base of the plant (but not directly to the stem) to protect the roots and lessen the competition with weeds.
Both good choices for full- or part-sun gardens, salvia and elderberry attract pollinators and are nice additions to any landscape.