e7351f24f3eb618150109cb8f0d9c91b
Southern Europe is well known as the lavender center of the world. From the western edges of Portugal and Morocco, east through Spain, the lavender fields of Tuscany and on to Greece, Turkey and beyond, every resident is familiar with the lavender plant. There, under the dry, clear Mediterranean skies, various lavender species grow wild upon the hills, surviving and thriving without the aid of gardeners, irrigation or fertilizer.
 
 rvanderhoff.jpg

Throughout southern Europe, residents have thoroughly and completely adopted the lavender plant as their plant. But lavender isn’t just a plant of the wild European hills; it is also plant of almost every garden. Gardens are places where plants from almost any origin can be deposited. Yet in Europe the same lavender plant that grows on the hillsides, also grows in almost every garden. I find this intriguing.

Lavender plants are medium sized, rounded or slightly sprawling plants and, of course, are drought adapted. Their distinctive grey-green leaves are strongly aromatic with a high oil content. The fragrance is resinous, and is released either when the foliage is brushed or a warm, sunny days – days common to the region. Wild lavender is also an important source of nectar for bees and other pollinators.

Salvia clevelandii

Here in California our climate is nearly a mirror of southern Europe, especially the area around the Mediterranean Sea. But there are no lavender plants growing wild anywhere upon California’s hillsides or in our canyons.

In California we have our own version of lavender plants. We call them sages, or salvias.

Wild sage is to California, what lavender is to southern Europe. Same size plants; same foliage color; same flower color; same bloom period; same tall flower spikes held well above the foliage; same resinous, aromatic leaves and same significance to pollinators. Without a doubt, a walk through the native landscape of southern California will reveal several native sages to nearly any observer.

From my experience, California’s sages and Europe’s lavenders fill the same niche. They are even genetically linked, both brethren of the same family: Lamiaceae.

If sages are to California what lavenders are to Europe why is it that Europe’s gardeners have so completely embraced lavenders, yet California’s native sages are almost completely absent from our local gardens?

Orange County’s local sages include some very garden worthy candidates: cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii ), purple sage (Salvia leucophylla ), black sage (Salvia mellifera) and white sage (Salvia apiana). There is a good chance that if your house and garden wasn’t where it is, there would be at least one of these native sages growing in its place.

California’s sages are incredibly carefree plants. In fact, about the only thing a native sage doesn’t like is an overly attentive gardener. Since sages belong here, they can pretty much be left alone, needing little irrigation or fertilization; over watering or over fertilizing being the primary reasons for garden failure. Plant California’s sages now and provide them with a little extra water, just to get them going and then leave them alone, much like lavender planted in a garden in Tuscany. By spring you will have a nice size plant in full bloom – every bit as beautiful and fragrant as its European counterpart.  

Cleveland sage may be the most garden worthy of all our local sages. A shrub roughly 3–4 feet in size, with flowering spikes rising another foot during the spring and summer months, holding masses of blue-violet to lilac-blue blooms that are as well-loved by hummingbirds and native pollinators. There's nothing to compare to the aroma downwind from a patch of Cleveland sage. To me it is the fragrance of California.

Cleveland Sage accepts a range of garden environments, growing in hard clay that receives no summer water or on slopes that are watered somewhat regularly. In all cases, like lavenders, sages prefer full sun. Also like lavenders, pruning is best done in stages: a third in the fall, and a bit more in late winter. This keeps the size of the plant manageable and the plant bushy and attractive.

In California we have our own version of lavender plants. We call them sages, or salvias. I hope you’ll try one...or two...or three.  

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens , Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers November 14th, 2009

Question: The leaves of my new Mandevillea vine have suddenly yellowed and several have fallen off. Is this normal at this time of year?

Peggy, 
Newport Coast

Answer: Yes. Mandevillea are sub-tropical plants and dislike our cool winter months. Depending upon your specific location and the plants placement in the garden it may yellow just a bit or, in some cases, it may even lose the majority of its leaves during the winter months. Do not over-water it during this resting period and it will return to its glory again next spring.


Plant Care Reminders

Oncidium Orchid Care
Cactus and Succulents Costa Farms

Oncidium Orchid Plant Care

Orchids are as easy as A - B - C!
Amaryllis

The Amaryllis - A Class Act

The poinsettia, the Christmas cactus and paperwhites are lovely holiday blooms, but the amaryllis is a real showstopper and commands a spot where it will be noticed.

Aloe vera (Aloe vera) - Monthly Plant…

3960 Pat Hammer
Aloe vera monthly plant care reminders
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Bauhinia x blakeana 'Hong Kong' (Hong…

6731 Steve Brigham
Hong Kong Orchid Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

How to Save Dahlias in Northern Gardens

29708 Chris Eirschele
Dahlia spp
Dahlia plants are perennials that have a limited range of hardiness, from zones 8 – 10.

Gardening Articles

Walkway to Water Conservation

I'm not Watering, are You?

I haven’t watered my landscape for in over eight weeks!
Bulb sizes differ
Seasonal Gardening Dawn Hummel

Easy to Grow and Share Paperwhites

There is nothing like the intoxicating, spicy perfume of Narcissus Paperwhites ‘Ziva’ to greet guests during the holidays.

Sudden Oak Death Found in Presidio National Park

6451
Healthy Coastal Live Oak
SAN FRANCISCO — A coast live oak tree in Presidio National Park has been found infected…

Take a Step Back in Time at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

7756
Arctostaphylos
Avid gardeners like to visit great gardens, wherever they may be.

A Fifteen Minute Gardening Break

4657
Western Bluebird
I was working in my garden a few minutes ago, preparing the soil in a new planting area.

Plant Recommendations

Salvia pachyphylla
Plant Recommendations Andy Maycen

Salvia - Best California Native - Flower Interest - Southern California

Andy Maycen's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Salvia - Best California Native Flower Interest.
Agonis flexuosa 'Jervis Bay After Dark'
Plant Recommendations Bill Teague

Australian Trees - Southern California

Bill Teague's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Australian Trees for Southern California.

Succulents with Spectacular Flowers -…

8999 Debra Lee Baldwin
Crassula falcata
Debra Lee Baldwin's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Succulents with Spectacular…

Water Plants for Containers - Southern…

3878 Julian Duval
Julian Duval
Julian Duval's Top Plant Recommendations: Water Plants for Containers in Southern…

Salvia - Best California Native - Easy…

6095 Andy Maycen
Salvia clevelandii 'Allen Chickering'
Andy Maycen's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Salvia - Best California Native - Easy…

Featured Plant Care

Amaryllis Monthly Plant Care

Hippeastrum spp. (Amaryllis) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Lemon Daylily Plant Care

Daylily - Lemon (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) - Monthly Plant Care Reminders

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Kahili Ginger Plant Care

Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Tomato Monthly Plant Care

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Echeverias roots

How to Slice and Re-root Large Echeverias

Widely known as the “Queen of Succulents,” Debra Lee Baldwin is the award-winning garden…

Plant Care Reminders List of Links

We have monthly regional plant care reminders for many plants. This is a list of links…
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads

Jungle Music Palms, Cycads & Tropical Plants - November Newsletter

Bring the Tropics Indoors! House Plants Bring Your Tropical Passion Indoors! At Jungle…
Join the Mulch and get a bunch of Walking onion bulblets!

Join the Mulch & Get a Free Bunch of Walking Onion Bulblets!

We'd like you to join theMulch and start using all of the great tools we've created to…

Popular Articles

Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…
Kahili Ginger Plant Care

Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)