Grey Days and Scarlet Sage

By October 8, 2012 Day-to-Day One Comment

It’s a grey day in the garden, and it’s beautiful.

Why this particular grey day is beautiful, and the last handful just made me want to sleep for a week, I will leave for the reader—either you know the difference in greys or you don’t, and there’s not much point in explaining it. Possibly it has to do with the thunderstorm that is wandering around, scraping ions together. I don’t know, I just work here.

I got up and drank coffee and had some oatmeal and went outside and said “Crap, it’s cold!” and decided that I absolutely positively had to get the last two Aristolochia vines in the ground today, since those are A) not cheap and B) not common, even though once you get one firmly established it’s approximately as delicate as a cinderblock.  (Also known as Hairy Dutchman’s Pipe. Larval host for Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly. We hatched one solitary butterfly out on my one vine this summer, and I am bound and determined, if the swallowtails are here, to give them as many meals as I can manage. Also I’m hoping it’ll cover the fence.)

What with one thing and another, though, I spent upwards of an hour puttering around, planted a Japanese roof iris (not native, obviously, but a glorious foliage plant and apparently made of iron.) planted a discount pansy that had been sitting around for awhile, and finally potted up a Mammilaria cactus. (Yes. Exactly why you think.) The cactus has been sitting there being ignored in its plastic pot for five months, healthy as a horse, and now that I have finally put it in dirt, I expect it to die instantly and with extreme prejudice.

I also divided the southern stonecrop. There are a few—very few—sedums native to my neck of the woods, and I have all three. So far the Sedum nevii has done fairly well (although looking at photos, I am becoming less and less certain that what I have is actually S. nevii and not something mislabeled.) S. ternatum, woodland stonecrop, is quite marvelous in the shade, and the jury is still out on my newly acquired S. glaucophyllum, which has only been in the ground for a month.

I also yanked up some of the Salvia coccinea. Oof. That’s…quite a plant. Native from Texas to South Carolina, which is good enough for my occasionally somewhat lackadaisical form of native gardening (particularly given our recent zone shift, it’d be creeping this way anyhow.) Also known as “blood sage.” It’s supposed to be an annual. Perhaps it will be. There’s a good chance it could be a tender perennial as well. Either way, I expect that I will never be without it again, because it re-seeds like nothing I have ever seen in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a gorgeous plant, it grows fast, it has blazing scarlet trumpets of a clear, pure, shocking red, and I am perfectly happy to have it on my painfully dry hillside. It was undoubtedly found in the Piedmont Prairie back in the day (at least that stretch of it south of here) so it’s welcome in mine. But holy crap, it’s EVERYWHERE. One plant, and I have probably fifty babies seeded all over the hillside, and I have a grim premonition that those little tiny green leaflets spread across the path there are not going to turn out to be chickweed.

It’s one of those plants where if you chop off a flower stalk and leave it on the ground, you’ll come back and find a line of seedlings started up where it touched the ground. (Agastache foeniculum will do this, too.)  I’m hoping a fair number of the seeds will fail to overwinter, because otherwise I’m going to have the All Blood Sage, All The Time garden.

That’s not as bad as it could be, honestly. While it’s sometimes called “hummingbird sage,” the hummingbirds are fairly neutral on it. The sulphur butterflies think this stuff is the Best Thing Ever, though, as do those native bees who can manage trumpets and lots of tiny little flitty butterflies that I can’t get close enough to identify.

What I will probably end up doing, if they do overwinter, is tear the stuff up now and again and lug it out to the field out front, where nothing much is going on and I have not bothered to do much in the way of planting. I expect the blood sage would probably manage to sink roots in there. I’ll throw some of the A. foeniculum too, and see if it doesn’t take as well, since lord knows, I’ve got plenty of that, too.

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