Mother Earth Living

Round Robin: Growing Purpurascens Alongside Lamb's Ears

Notes from Regional Herb Gardeners
By Elisabeth Sheldon
February/March 1995
Add to My MSN

Elisabeth Sheldon gives tips for successful gardening in New York.


Content Tools

Related Content

DeLoach Vineyards: Biodynamic Farming and Horn Silica Prep 501

Natural Home assistant editor Kim Wallace introduces a green gardening series on Biodynamic farming ...

Growing Purple Basil

When the light is right and soil conditions have been just so, you can see highlights in the leaves ...

Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: Living A Good Wabi-Sabi Life in Maine

Inspired by back-to-the-landers Scott and Helen Nearing, Kate NaDeau grows her own food and enjoys t...

Growing Herbs in Texas: Growing Salvia Coccinea

Learn more about Salvia coccinea, also known as hummingbird sage or autumn sage, due to its great sh...

LANSING, New York—Last year, for the first time in my gardening career, I was able to bring the purple-leaved Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ through the winter. Actually, it was the deep, prolonged snow cover that made the difference. The result was that for the first time, I was able to enjoy a large spread of those wonderful pebbled, murky gray-plum leaves combined with the colors of other border plants: the dark dregs-of-wine seed heads on sturdy spikes of the hybrid alumroot (Heuchera ¥ pruhoniciana), the blue-green foliage of yellow horned poppy (Glaucium flavum), and the violet-purple blossoms on my favorite nepeta. But the best of all effects came in the fall when Rosa ‘Ballerina’, whose branches arch over the other plants and whose blossoms are ordinarily pale pink, acquired a hectic flush with the early frosts. The buds became deep cherry red and the small, clustered blossoms brightest pink: marvelous against the subtle restrained warm tones of the sage.

Last spring, I bought a new kind of lamb’s-ears—Stachys ‘Helene von Stein’. Pretty silly, I thought, buying lamb’s-ears when I’m already overrun with them, but the catalog described it as superior to other lamb’s-ears—and why not since it’s named after a countess who owns a nursery? When the little gray flannel rag arrived, I thought, “Foiled again!” but stuck it into a small empty space in the front of the border. After all, I’d paid for it, so I might as well give it a chance.

When a month or so had gone by, I noticed a splendid gray plant that was rather arrogantly beginning to shoulder its neighbors aside: Helene von Stein was already taking charge. Amazed, I set about moving it to a roomier spot where, by the end of summer, it had made of itself a most impressive spectacle. Imagine a great rosette of handsome felty gray leaves about 9 inches long, no more than 6 inches high but measuring 30 inches across. It wasn’t actually one rosette but several centers crammed together to form one large circle. The plant is indeed something new in lamb’s-ears and is quite stunning. However, its impact is such that I’m going to have to separate it into two or three pieces, locating them at strategic points so that they’ll balance one another in the border.

The catalog gave no species name, and I’m unable to find it in reference books. It differs in many ways from ordinary S. byzantina; for example, its blunt, lance-shaped leaves are not only larger but pebbled green-gray rather than furry gray-white. I suspect that it’s a cross between byzantina and some other species. I haven’t seen it flower yet, but its vendor says that its short-stemmed flowers “don’t spoil anything.”

Some lamb’s-ear relatives are also welcome in the herb garden. Betony (S. officinalis) has long been used to cure many ills, including headaches, hysteria, and nervousness. This native of Britain, Europe, and Algeria, with its crimped scalloped leaves and spikes of red-purple flowers, is fairly attractive, but S. macrantha ‘Superba’, which makes a stout, compact clump about a foot tall, is worth growing for its leaves alone; they’re crimped and scalloped like those of S. officinalis but bigger and better in every way. The flower stems, never more than 2 feet tall, rise straight up from the center of the clump of beautiful foliage, carrying whorls of rosy-violet blossoms. Superba could glamorize any herb garden.








Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.