Notes From Herb:

With the hectic holiday season approaching, I truly value the times when I can just amble lazily through my garden. It is hard to turn off the part of my brain that is constantly evaluating and recording how things are getting along. I tend to note details that most normal human beings would find unimportant and even boring; but normally I do derive pleasure from my fact-finding, comparisons, and revelations. However, it is always a treat when I find myself out in the garden on auto-pilot, taking in the bright, clear color of the flowers, enjoying the heavy scent of  leaves after a rain, or basking in the warm glow of the late afternoon sunshine on a crisp fall day.

Our fall, so far, has been unusual because we have gotten a large amount of early rain followed by lusciously warm, sunny days. Normally, we are dry and dusty until late November, and, even then, we get only a bit of rain until January, when most of our precipitation begins.



Mexican Blue Sage

Our Zone 8 Salvias love the fall almost as much as I do.  Electric blue Mexican Blue Sage, positively pink Wild Watermelon Salvia, fuzzy purple Mexican Bush Sage and lightly lilac Grape Sage have afforded me some of my greatest "just coasting" pleasure over the last few weeks. Just being around them makes me smile. No big reason, just glad that they are gracing my life. Some of my Salvias are quite old and yet they still look great and continue to please. And, while I am enjoying them, so are the hummingbirds and insects that have not yet gone into winter hibernation. I am glad that I have a diverse garden full of plants that bloom from early spring until early winter, not only because the garden's aesthetic quality is extended, but because I provide food, water and shelter for the tiny eco-system of life that is beyond my own.

Wild Watermelon Salvia
Mexican Bush Sage

All Purple Mexican Bush Sage


Recently, I enjoyed several lengthy conversations with one of our large commercial accounts about some butterfly plants they want us to grow for them. One of the plants I suggested was Gaillardia. This native American species of the plains is one of the longest-blooming perennials I have ever grown.

Gaillardia aristia

For this reason, it is one of the first plants I recommend when folks consider plants for a butterfly garden. Not only is it a nectar-bearing plant for butterflies, but its large, open daisy shape provides a place for water that is necessary for our stained-glass flyers. On this particular occasion, though, I was having a hard time convincing our client that this was the best plant to use because the color was not to their liking.  I have come across this before, where folks have a real aversion to one color or another. I once knew a lady that would have no pink in her garden. Imagine a garden without pink! And, I have known other folks who shy away from the burnished gold and outrageous orange of Gaillardia. I wonder, though, if they have ever grown it or if they are working from a color wheel with a photograph, because anyone who grows this plant surely must grow to love it.

In the end, we won the client over. Not because we convinced them to love the colors of Gaillardia, but because we pointed out its importance to the butterfly (and that was, after all, the purpose of their selection). With many of the wildflower habitats disappearing,  it is encouraging that so many people are turning their backyards into havens for these flittering delights.

Soon spring plant catalogs will start to arrive. As you peruse these over a nice cup of herb tea by the fire, consider the creatures of the garden. Choose plants that will encourage life, provide beauty, and allow for some serious coasting time in your own garden.

Happy Holidays!