by Patty Groos (“Poppy Patty”)

#2 in our “5 for YLP” series, Cleveland Sage and its related sages can form key elements of your YLP native garden.  We describe five of our favorites that will be available at our Nov. 14 plant sale.  Named after plant collector Daniel Cleveland, Cleveland Sage is often referred to as the “fragrant” sage — its leaves fill your garden with luscious scent.  As close to completely deerproof as any plant there is.

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Cleveland Sage and its hybrids

Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii) is native to Southern California and northern Baja California, growing in lower elevations of coastal chaparral habitat.  Cleveland Sage and its hybrids (genetic combinations with other native sages) are standout plants in YLP.  Easy to grow and thriving in drought, these Sages enjoy full sun and resent supplemental water after mature.  Watch out, though!  Some of these can get 6’-8’ wide, so leave them lots of room when you plant them.  Different selections bloom at different times, so you can easily have blooms from March through July. 

Allen Chickering Sage (Salvia ‘Allen Chickering’) is a spectacular hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). The Cleveland Sage part gives this sage its dramatic flowers, while Purple Sage contributes size.  Tolerates almost any soil type.  Deep lavender flowers in late spring, lasting through June, and attracts native bees and butterflies.  Fast growing to 4’-5’ tall and 5-8’ wide.

Pozo Blue Sage (S. Clevelandii ‘Pozo Blue’), with its unusually long flowering stalks, is a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies!  Same parents as Allen Chickering, but a different selection. This is one of the most adaptable sages, tolerating most soils.  I have planted it in very poor soil on granite slopes, and very shallow soil in flat areas.   Lavender/purple flowers on towering stalks in late spring, lasting through June.  Fast growing to 4’-5’ tall and 5’-8’ wide.

Gracias Sage tumbling down a slope, late April

Gracias Sage (Salvia ‘Gracias’) and Bee’s Bliss Sage (Salvia ‘Bees Bliss’)are workhorse plants for our YLP gardens: easy to grow, fabulous groundcover, great habitat plant.  There is some confusion in the trade about what they are “made” of: definitely our spreading Sonoma Sage (Salvia sonomensis), plus either Cleveland  or Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla). Gracias and Bee’s Bliss are essentially identical in appearance.  I planted several of each two years ago, thinking the Bee’s Bliss would appear more “draping” than the Gracias, but they look the same.  They grow low and wide, making them an excellent ground cover and habitat plant for barren areas and rocky hillsides. This year, I discovered a clutch of quail eggs hidden within the depths of a mature Gracias Sage growing in the front yard.  This sage tolerates more water than most sages.  In fact, if planted in full sun in YLP,  it will need some supplemental water to flourish during our hot summer months, otherwise it can become summer deciduous or even die back.  Summer watering of native plants should be done as early in the morning as possible, and before temperatures reach 85 degrees.  Purple flowers in early spring are lovely, though not spectacular. Fast growing to 1’ tall x 6’-12’ wide.

Celestial Blue, late May

Celestial Blue Sage (Salvia ‘Celestial Blue’) is a hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Rose Sage (Salvia pachyphylla).  What’s really interesting about this hybrid is that although  Rose Sage, one of our most spectacular sages, is difficult to grow, Celestial Blue is easy.  Very late spring/early blooms are purple/blue on deep pink flowers above silvery leaves, and will take your breath away.  Fast growing to 4’-5’ tall and as wide.

Cleveland Sage Winifred Gilman (Salvia c. ‘Winifred Gilman’) is actually a clone of the Cleveland Sage – a “true” Cleveland selection, and not a hybrid.  Its more compact form and smaller leaves distinguish it from other Cleveland Sages.  Blooming later than most other Cleveland Sage or hybrids, it has deep, long calyxes (tubular bloom) and blooms with intense violet-blue flowers.  3’-5’ tall x 4’-6’ wide.