Russian Sage or Perovskia Atriplicifolia
The value of the majestic Russian Sage in the fall garden is underestimated. Many gardeners shrugged their shoulders in an “oh well” attitude about the beauty of this fine perennial and only tried Russian Sage out because it won the Perennial Plant of the Year award in 1995. Then they discovered Russian Sage’s many useful and positive attributes to the garden.
The shrub-like proportions of Perovskia became the first reality check of its value. Russian Sage takes the place of a regular shrub without the tedious waiting for a traditional shrub to grow. It is an excellent perennial for commercial landscapes without needing the constant maintenance of pruning. It bypasses the damage of broken limbs and branches because it is actually a perennial that goes dormant so the winter burn that conifers experience is not an issue. In addition, this beautiful perennial blooms for a good fifteen weeks while most flowering shrubs bloom maybe a week or two at the most. As a shrub in the landscape, Russian Sage offers so much than traditional shrubs.
Another garden talent is its value as a background perennial. The cooling effect when the upright silvery-white stems bud into a blue-misty froth gives the garden a cool relaxed feeling in the heat of late-summer. Perovskia also adds a pleasant smell to the garden that chases deer away and has zero pest and disease problems.
Russian Sage also grows in the perfect size and shape to provide a natural seasonal garden screen. It can be planted as a hedge or as a divider between properties. Used as a property enclosure, It gives privacy in summer but when it goes dormant in winter, the yard is opened up to a surreal winter landscape. Along with these talents, Russian Sage is a plant for western gardens for it has the constitution of a drought-tolerant or xeriscape perennial that someday may be the only plants to survive.
The dormant plant must be heavily pruned every spring to keep it from overtaking the yard and looking scraggly. Watch this video by Catherine Moravec to learn 2 methods for pruning Russian Sage after it goes dormant for winter. Remember to prune early in the spring before the plant starts sending out new growth. If you have a large stand of Russian Sage, you can even do the pruning with a set of hedge shears. Just cut the stems down to about 12″ high.