Round Robin: Final Tour

Notes from regional herb gardeners.

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Portland, Oregon—The garden is settling down, and so am I. If the garden is not weeded quite as meticu­lously as I would like it to be, so be it; there’s always next year to correct my failings. However, not being a zealous weeder and deadheader does have its benefits. One was Thymus ‘Lemon Frost’, a chance seedling that I believe is a cross between a creeping lemon thyme (T. citriodorus ‘Doone Valley’) and T. ‘White Moss’. It’s a bright green creeping thyme with strongly lemon-scented foliage and pure white flowers, and it never would have occurred if I’d removed every stray weedlet and faded blossom from my garden.

My wife and I like to enjoy the last days of fall touring the garden, discussing and evaluating the new plants we purchased earlier in the year. Origanum ‘Norton’s Gold’ was spectacular in the spring and early summer with new foliage of bright gold. Unfortunately, the later summer sun burned and temporarily disfigured the top growth. I know now that this cultivar should be planted in partial or filtered shade. And for those of you enamored with O. ‘Kent Beauty’, let me whet your appetites by recommending the even pinker-blushed O. ‘Barbara Tingey’. It’s delectable.

Again this year, I grew a number of the Salvia clevelandii hybrids. ‘Winifred Gillman’ has much darker blue flowers than the species, and ‘Whirley Blue’ flowers are a beautiful light blue. Cleveland sage is a perennial that is not hardy here, but it has such delightful, lemon-scented flowers in tiers of pompons that it is worth the extra attention to preserve it. I understand that these new hybrids may be a natural cross between S. clevelandii and another Californian native, S. leucophylla (chaparral sage), which would explain the wide range of green- or silver-­foliaged forms I’ve found in the trade. Regardless, they are great for potpourri material, and they attract hummingbirds.

I also grew an old acquaintance that I had several years ago but somehow lost—the dramatic candelabra sage (S. candelabrum), whose 4- to 5-foot-tall branched flower spike is dotted with lovely medium-blue flowers. Like pineapple sage (S. elegans), it is marginally hardy here.

In Mrs. Grieve’s A Modern Herbal—an excellent classic reference—I read, “It was held that [sage] would thrive or wither, just as the owner’s business prospered or failed . . . .” I guess I’d better take one more look at my sage plants before winter.