‘Lloyd’s Silver’ Jerusalem sage
This sage shines in summer but truly sparkles in winter
ZONES: 7 to 10
CONDITIONS: Full sun; well-drained soilThis is an evergreen shrub with attributes aplenty throughout the year. Strangely, we regard it most favorably in the dead of win-ter, long after its excellent midsummer yellow flowers are but a memory on the computer photo album. The Royal Horticultural Society granted ‘Lloyd’s Silver’ Jerusalem sage an Award of Gar-den Merit (AGM)—but, more personally, we love it so much that we gave it a prime spot in our first display bed at the nursery.
This is a tough Turkish species that calls open stony hillsides home and is notable for its cold tolerance and height, which, in the wild, can reach 9 feet in venerable specimens. Most plants, however, stay smaller, especially when given an annual early spring coppicing to promote a low, dense domed habit with lots of flow-ers. We’re easily distracted, especially if a task isn’t absolutely necessary, so our Jerusalem sage has never been savaged by prun-ers. Now in its 15th year, our plant is 8 feet tall and nearly 15 feet wide. Speaking of being savaged, here in deer-torn Port Townsend, Washington, ‘Lloyd’s Silver’ Jerusalem sage has never been so much as glanced at by the cloven-hoofed minions of Satan.
Although its habit is dense, it is open enough to provide tantaliz-ing glimpses of the stout trunks and branches clad in layers of pale bark, which shred off in longitudinal sheets. The new foliage is a silver, olive-gray velour, which plays well with the scented flowers. The blooms are held proudly on 12- to 18-inch stems above the leaves. They look for all the world like some celebrity chef’s pre-sentation of orange lollipops—orange halves peeled and inverted, then blanched quickly in Champagne and served skewered singly on mindfully harvested Jerusalem sage twigs.
This is seemingly the high point in this plant’s year, but it’s a false summit because it is in winter that this shrub looks about for peers and finds none. Perennials have been cut back, leaves have dropped off the deciduous woodies, and our border is left with only grumpy conifers—except for ‘Lloyd’s Silver’ Jerusalem sage, whose pale gray leaves shine with a strength of purpose. We don’t need 50 shades of gray to satisfy us; one good shade will do.
—Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken grow some of the coolest plants on the planet at Far Reaches Farm in Port Townsend, Washington.
Fine Gardening magazine has graciously allowed us to post some past Plant Profiles we have authored. We have worked with the magazine for a number of years and more recently in the capacity of contributing editors. The folks at the magazine have been a joy to work with and have been very amenable to our occasional quirkiness and interest in unusual plants. One of the things we appreciate about the staff at FG is they are constantly in motion visiting top gardeners and gardens across the country and then enlisting them to write about the plants and design strategies that light them up. It is no small feat to make a publication contain relevance to any part of the country but they pull it off with each issue.