1191 Salvia nemorosaCommon Names: wood sage, hybrid sage Family: Lamiaceae (mint Family)
Wood sage (Salvia X sylvestris) is a hybrid species created by crossing Salvia nemorosa with Salvia pratensis. Wood sage is a leafy and much branched upright perennial that gets about 30 in (75 cm) tall and spreads about 12 in (30 cm) across. Like many (but not all) members of the mint family, Salvia X sylvestris (and nearly all members of the Salvia or sage genus) have square stems and leaves borne opposite one another. The leaves of wood sage are oblong and wrinkled, fuzzy beneath, have scalloped margins, and get up to 3 in (8 cm) long. The lower leaves are on petioles, upper ones sessile, and the stems are usually leafy all the way to their tips. As is typical of many (but not all) mints, the bruised foliage is aromatic; the smell reminds me of faint cat urine, but is not particularly unpleasant. Wood sage bears pinkish purple flowers a half inch (1.5 cm) long in abundant 4-6-flowered terminal clusters. Individual flowers are tubular, expanding into two lips. The upper lip is helmet or boat shaped, and extends over the lower lip which is more or less flat. The calyx is often colorful as well, usually the same shade as the lips.
Several of the cultivars available in the trade are of uncertain origin, and might actually be selections from one of the parents, Salvia nemorosa. 'Mainacht', also called 'May Night', is one of the most popular cultivars, and one of the earliest to flower in spring. Its flowers have deep indigo-blue lips and purplish black calyces. The flowers are larger (3/4 in; 2 cm) than the species. 'Blauhügel' ('Blue Mound') has bright blue flowers; 'Blaukönigin' ('Blue Queen') has blue-purple flowers; 'Kew Gold' has leaves that are yellow, spotted with green; and 'Rose Queen' has pale pink flowers and leaves that are grayish.
Wood sage or Salvia X sylvestris is a hybrid of garden origin. The original wild species that were crossed and gave rise to wood sage and (ultimately) its many cultivars grow in Europe, Central Asia and North Africa. Salvia nemorosa grows in Europe west to Siberia and is a rare wildflower in the British Isles; S. pratensis grows in Europe and Morocco. Both parent species grow in old fields and dry meadows, often on chalky or limey soils. Wood sage, the hybrid, has escaped cultivation and become established in some areas in North America.
Light: Grow the sages in full sun to dappled shade. Plants grown in more shady sites will be lax and tend to fall over. Moisture: Wood sage does best in a humus-rich, moist, but well drained soil that is not too acidic. Water frequently during its first growing season and, once established, the plant will then be quite tolerant of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 9 . Wood sage may be hardy in Zone 4B. Propagation: All of the sages are easy to propagate from softwood cuttings taken at any time of the growing season. Stuck in a sandy, well drained potting medium and placed in a humid environment, a cutting from wood sage should begin rooting within a week. The tiny seeds may be sown, but since they are hybrids and cultivars, seedlings cannot be expected to look like the parent, although it is said that the cultivar 'Rose Queen' does in fact come true from seed.
Salvia X sylvestris is among the most reliable and easily grown of herbaceous perennial flowers. Wood sage is effective in a sunny border, in drifts, or in masses in a mixed flower bed. It is especially attractive positioned with other herbaceous perennials, especially ones with white or yellow flowers. This species is noteworthy for its stout upright stems and rarely needs staking. The many cultivars of wood sage bloom in mid spring for several weeks, but if older flowers are beheaded before they mature, the plants will continue to bloom sporadically throughout the growing season. Drought tolerant and not eaten by white-tailed deer or bunny rabbits, wood sage is a great plant for a naturalistic garden where constant attention from the gardener is not always possible. Wood sage can be grown in big containers, and is long lasting as a cut flower.
With more than 900 species, Salvia is the largest genus in the mint family. Included in this large genus are evergreen and herbaceous perennials, annuals, biennials, and even shrubs. The various species occur on all continents in temperate and tropical climates. Some have medicinal uses, some culinary, some are used in perfumery, and nearly all make good eye candy. The sages are favorites here at Floridata, and we have profiled more than a dozen species.
The flowers of all members of the mint family are bilaterally symmetrical (a.k.a. zygomorphic). This means that the flowers can be divided into two equal halves by ONLY one cut that passes through the center of the pistil, dividing the unequal upper and lower petals into mirror images of each other. Note that flowers from many other families are radially symmetrical (a.k.a. actinomorphic). These flowers can be divided into equal halves by ANY cut that passes through the center of the pistil because the various parts of the flower (petals, sepals etc.) seem to radiate out from the center of the flower like spokes on a wheel.
Steve Christman 9/1/15