|Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)|
Let me start by saying that I’m sure there are places for Russian sage in the landscape. They are tough plants and I’m told they are very unappetizing to deer. It’s just that I’m sick of seeing their leggy, sprawling and spreading forms in every hell strip, median, shrub border and foundation planting along the Front Range. Plus, my neighbor has one along our shared fence and it’s continually trying to colonize my yard- oh the indignity.
|Russian sage suckering its way under my fence|
So I thought I might try and encourage a little diversity by highlighting some similar plants that are a little better behaved and, at least to my eyes, more attractive. There are actually quite a few smallish shrubs or shrub-like plants that have similar ornamental attributes to Russian Sage.
Blue mist spirea (Caryopteris incana and Caryopteris × clandonensis)-
Blue mist spirea has very similar flower color and timing to Russian Sage. However, it lacks its sprawling and uneven habit and though it will occasionally come up from seed it does not spread nearly as aggressively. The remnants of its fruit also add texture to a landscape in the winter months. They are fairly common and easy to find.
|Blue Mist Spirea Winter Texture|
This sage develops showy purple flowers mid-summer. The foliage is fragrant and semi-evergreen remaining silvery-green late in the fall and early winter. Once established, plants require little water and in our demonstration garden tend to struggle during wet winters.
|Inflorescence of Mojave sage late in the summer|
Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens and A. fruiticosa)-
There are two species of lead plant commonly grown along the Front Range, A. fruiticosa and A. canescens. Both are attractive landscape plants which develop purple flowers midsummer and have blue green foliage. A. fruiticosa is the taller of the two species. They are low water use once established and are tolerant of infertile soils. They are native to the plains and in my opinion seem to fit more naturally into western landscapes.
|Lead plant flower|
|Newly planted lead plant|
Catmint- (Nepeta sp.)-
There are a number of different species, hybrids and clones of catmint. They come in a variety of different heights and several flower colors, but most of those which are common to Front Range landscapes have purple flowers which provide color throughout late spring and summer, especially when deadheaded. Catmint also attracts a variety of pollinators and butterflies to the garden.
|Pollinators are often attracted to catmint|