Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Ornamental sages come in many shapes and colors, and they are used by the Wave Hill gardeners to provide colorful interest late in the season. A particularly striking one is the red velvet sage (Salvia confertiflora), which can be seen in the Wild Garden.
A large plant, native to Brazil, it takes most of the growing season for it to reach its full size—five feet tall, or more—and blooms in the fall.
The flower spikes are covered with brownish-red hairs, hence “red velvet”, and are crowded with buds. These open to reveal small, orange-red flowers, which are also slightly hairy.
Although the original plant will be killed by the first frosts, cuttings have already been taken and are growing into small plants the greenhouses. These will be planted out next spring.