Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia
… and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
-W. S. Merwin
A plant we may consider as an example of endless summer is our Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia. Having already been in bloom for many weeks now, this is a plant which may continue its floral display into October. Native to Afghanistan, Iran, and the Himalayas, the genus name honors Vasily Alekseevich Perovsky (1794-1857), Russian general and statesman, and the specific epithet,atriplicifolia means having leaves like the genus Atriplex. Regardless of the plant’s etymology, its beauty, adaptability and toughness, has earned for it the select status of “Perennial Plant of the Year”, in 1995.
These upright, three to four-foot tall, full-sun plants, carry a cloud-like spire of small, blue/lavender, flowers, above the leaves, atop the terminal one-foot of the stems. The opposite, 1-2 ½-inch long, gray-green, pinnately cut (like a feather), leaves provide a fine textural accent to the beautiful floral display. Additionally, this foliage, and the stems are pungently aromatic.
… My father says, in his country,
Because the earth knows
The scent of history,
It gave the people sage…
As a drought-tolerant plant, once established, Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia conforms to some of our master plan objectives of creating a less labor-intensive, sustainable landscape, while preserving and enhancing aesthetic beauty and horticultural diversity. On your next visit to Mount Auburn, look for plantings of Russian sage on Hyacinth Path, at the flagpole, and other locations.