Russian Sage is one of the great garden plants of all time, but if you've been frustrated by their floppy nature or if you've got a smaller spot to fill, this new variety will be a welcome addition.
Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Taiga' is the first Russian sage available as a first year flowering perennial. Growing only to about 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) tall and about as wide, the well behaved flower spikes grow upright and do not fall over.
This airy plant makes a great specimen plant. The grey-green leaves are finely cut and wonderfully aromatic. The branching sprays of small, attractive summer flowers become increasingly brilliant as they open and when fully in bloom they create a marvellous lavender-blue haze that begins in July and continues right through September,
An added bonus is that the leaves of Perovskia are strongly aromatic when brushed or crushed and smell of both sage and lavender. The stems are deciduous and, with a little grooming and adjustment in late autumn, have a slender, upright, bleached presence in the garden that can last throughout winter.
Perovskia are very easy to grow and are attractive to bees and butterflies. Plants are vigorous and very hardy, ignoring heat, drought, and pests, while always looking fresh.
They tolerate poor soil, a range of pH and are deer resistant. They handle both drought and frost well and are hardy to minus 28°C (-20°F). In the garden the colour works especially well with whites and yellows and with grey foliage.
In 1995, the Perennial Plant Association in the US named Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Perennial Plant of the Year’.
Sowing: These perennial plants can be started at any time of year and will if started early in the year will bloom the first year. Sow seeds in cell packs or into 7cm (3in) pots containing seed starting compost. Press the seeds into soil and barely cover. Keep at 60 to 65°F. Germination can be slow erratic and can appear occurs over a period of 3 to 12 weeks.
If you have the patience, germination can be improved by pre-chilling. Wrap the seeds in a moist paper towel, place inside a zip-lock bag with plenty of air, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 weeks. Fridge temperatures are usually kept at around 4°C, which is perfect for chilling seeds. The chilled seeds will germinate faster and more uniformly.
Once the plants are established they will be generally trouble-free. Transplant into the garden 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) apart. Plant in the garden in soil with good drainage, in a position that receives full sun for most of the day. When planting, incorporate some grit into the soil to ensure perfect drainage, together with just a little bonemeal.
Perovskia is a real sun-worshipper, best planted in small groups to make a big impact. They need good drainage, are suitable for growing on shallow chalk and will adapt well to seaside conditions - provided they are grown in full sun.
Perovskia seem to thrive on starvation rations and in parched places, putting on too much lush sappy growth if fed and watered, mulched and pampered.
In warmer regions, deadheading may result in a second flush of bloom. Otherwise, leave the flowerheads for winter interest. Prune back to about 15cm (6in) in the spring, before new growth starts.
In planting schemes of grand proportions Perovskia works well grouped en masse under big open skies, its silver shoots masking the fading leaves of underplanted spring tulips and alliums as summer advances, and eventually forming a shimmering blue haze when viewed from a distance.
Perovskia is at its best planted in a fairly tight group, hemmed in with other plants of slightly smaller stature that enjoy similar hot and sunny conditions in the garden - and it grows particularly well in gravel. In early summer its rising silver shoots are a magnificent foil to fellow blue-flowered, grey-leaved plants - Nepeta mussinii, dwarf lavenders, Cerinthe major, dainty calaminthas, eryngiums, purple sage and smokey-leafed Geranium pratense 'Victor Reiter'. They look wonderful surrounded by clouds of self-seeded sky-blue Nigella damascena 'Miss Jekyll' and the upright heads of Allium.
Later, as it achieves its full height and its hazy blue flowers develop, Perovskia looks stunning among taller plants with more ethereal, late-summer presence: Verbena bonariensis, wafting grasses such as the Deschampsias that turn golden in late summer and the delicate smokey veil of lofty bronze fennel with its limey flowers.
Native to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Perovskia atriplicifolia is a woody sub-shrub that grows in rocky and gravel slopes.
Commonly known as Russian sage, Perovskia was named after the Russian count who first introduced it to Western gardens about 100 years ago. But this late summer/early autumn performer, a member of the Labiatae family, has its origins further east in the arid, rocky soil and wide open spaces of Afghanistan and the Himalayas.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25 mg Average Seed Count 25 seeds Family Polygonaceae Genus Perovskia Species atriplicifolia Cultivar Taiga Common Name Russian Sage Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Lavender-blue Natural Flower Time June to September Foliage Finely cut, aromatic, grey-green leaves. Height 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) Spacing 60 to 75cm (24 to 30in) Position Full sun Soil Well drained. Will tolerate poor soils. Harvest Shoots should be 15 to 23cm (6 to 9in) long when cut. Time to Sow Sow in autumn or in spring.