When I think of sage, I usually think of Thanksgiving, where sage lends it’s strong and distinctive flavor to dressings and stuffings. For me, it’s hard to imagine dressing without it. And any time of year I like to take leaves of sage and make brown sage butter, which is one of my favorite taste treats. It’s lovely with gnocchi or ravioli.
But in those cases, I’m talking about common garden sage – Salvia officianalis, which is an easy to grow woody perennial with gray-green pebbly leaves and flowers of blue, white or pink.
This year we’re growing a different kind of sage here at Happy Acres, one that is used more often for cosmetic and medicinal uses, or in our case, in soap. It’s Clary Sage – Salvia sclarea, a biennial that grows leaves the first year then blooms and dies off the second year.
It’s a beautiful plant that can reach almost five feet tall when the flower stalks open up. And the leaves are huge compared to the leaves of most other sages I have grown.
Most of the scent seems to be concentrated in the flower stalks and blossoms. Touch the flower stalk, and the scent lingers on your hand. The individual flowers are various shades of white and blue, and surrounded by lilac colored bracts.
The scent is one you either love or hate. I think it smells musky, fruity and floral. To others it smells like dirty socks or old sweaty clothes.
Last year I came up with two soap creations that featured the unique scent of Clary Sage essential oil. One had a blend of Clary Sage and Lavender EOs, the other a blend of Clary Sage, Lemongrass and Rosemary EOs. Both soaps have become favorites of mine.
This year we will have some dried flowers from Clary Sage to add to the soaps. I dried these in the dehydrator, and the scent perfumed the whole house. They retained some of their lovely color even after drying. And the smell is heavenly – at least to me!
Since the plant is a biennial, it needs to be replanted every year. I have already started some seeds for next year’s plants. And I plan on saving seeds from the plant for growing in the future. It’s easy to grow in most any soil, in full sun or even partial shade. The young plants have leaves that are covered with fine hairs that give them a silvery look.
Clary Sage is an unusual plant that can make a dramatic statement in any garden. It’s definitely earned a place here at Happy Acres!