Why You Should Plant Russian Sage

Are you looking for a plant that survives freezing winters and scorching summers, is drought tolerant, blooms all summer, and attracts bees and butterflies?  Look no further, because it’s right here…Russian Sage.  Its botanical name is Perovskia atriplicofolia.  This tough beauty is originally from the region around Afghanistan, and it is one hardy (zones 4 through 9), gorgeous plant.  But it’s not really Russian, and it’s not really sage either…

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicofolia) is one of my absolute favorite perennials.  It is completely different from culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) and you do not cook with it.  It is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) but is not generally considered edible.  (If you smell it you will know why.  It smells rather medicinal.)  It is considered an herbaceous perennial.  It is tough as nails once it gets established, and blooms nonstop midsummer to fall.  I have it in my front flower bed with my Red Double Knockout roses; full sun, facing east, in a very well drained raised brick bed.  This is a photo taken in late June.    

Russian Sage and Knockout Roses from HouseofIngrams.com

It grows to a tall (around three feet) airy shrub with delicate gray-green leaves with tall spikes of tiny purple/blue flowers.  It really is stunning.  The bees love it too.  

If it gets too tall for you or starts to flop over, just give it a trim and it will recover and be blooming again in just a few weeks.

 Maintenance on this is super easy, I just give it a very hard pruning (to about 6 inches tall) in the late winter.  If I find a plant in a spot where I don’t want it, I have the best luck moving them in winter while they are dormant.  I have killed a few (ok, many) transplants during their active growing season.  My gardening style is best described as “benign neglect” so this is an ideal plant for me.  

When I first planted three of them behind my roses, the plant instructions said they rarely reseeded.  Well, I beg to differ…I had dozens of tiny baby Perovskia coming up in the bed the next spring.  Most of them were in desirable places so I let them be.  I don’t really consider them invasive, but if I left them alone they would definitely take over the bed.  This winter I have been able to share some of my extras with a couple of friends.  Since that first season, they aren’t reseeding so much as rooting from flopped stems and spreading by runners, as mints will do.  This year I will try some pinching back early in the season to see if I can reduce the flop factor. They get more water than they really need since they are in with my roses that are watered fairly regularly.  That combined with their eastern exposure is causing them to be “floppy”.

To keep these happy plant in full sun in well-drained soil.  Cut down almost to the ground in late winter or early spring, as they bloom on new wood.   They are pretty drought tolerant once established.   

Below is a photo of Russian Sage used as a tall bedding plant at MS&T in Rolla, Missouri.  This was taken in late June.

Russian Sage in landscape HouseofIngrams.com

Here’s a closer look at the flowers tucked behind some four o’clocks…

Russian Sage in the background with four o'clocks HouseofIngrams.com

I highly recommend this plant if you have a well-drained spot for it.  It won’t disappoint!

 

 

 

The Florida Aquarium and the American Victory Ship

Back in January, we took a day to visit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa because we are all about aquariums…seriously, we go to every one we possibly can, including the ones here in Oklahoma, which are obviously few and far between…

Our visit coincided with a rare cold spell in south Florida, but it was still warmer than Oklahoma.  The first full day we planned to check out the aquarium in Tampa then make our way to our hotel in St. Pete Beach that afternoon.  It was COLD.  A really good day to be inside somewhere–and lots of other people must have agreed because the place was packed.  There was a pretty good line of people waiting to get tickets when we arrived.  We finally got our tickets and made our way inside.  I took some pictures but they don’t really do things justice.  It’s a very beautiful facility with oodles of amazing animals.  

Sand eels are so cool!

Roseate spoonbills.

The duck above is watching all the strollers closely so it can snatch up dropped kiddie snacks…”Pay no attention to that sign behind me!”

We went through the whole place in around two hours; keep in mind my boys are 20 and 16 so they weren’t interested in the hands-on or outdoor play areas (they have an outdoor splash pad playground which was not open during our visit, go figure!); families with smaller kids might want to allow more time.  And if you go when it’s warm, which is apparently almost always, you will want to bring swim gear, towels, and sunscreen so your kids can play out there.  They have a place to change in and out of swim gear right next to the playground.

There is a snack bar on site but since we had seen everything we wanted, we walked about a block down the street and found a New York style pizza place which was really good.  It had a New York police precinct theme.  It is called, appropriately, Precinct Pizza.  Check it out if you are in town!

We were thinking about heading to the rental car and finding our hotel, but had noticed a sign on the way into the aquarium mentioning something about a historic victory ship nearby…so we followed the signs and found this:

American Victory Ship

The SS American Victory Maritime Museum is one of only four working WWII era ships in the country.  My older son is a major history buff, so of course we had to spend the rest of our day exploring the massive ship.

They take this old merchant marine cargo ship out on a Relive History Cruise twice a year, and we were bummed that we missed that.  Perhaps another time.  There are nine decks to wander, including 3-story cargo holds, galleys, crew cabins, mess halls, officers’ quarters, and lots more.  They also have medals and many historic artifacts.

Above you can see the dazzle paint scheme that helps to break up the shape of the ship.

 

Both places are definitely worth a visit if you are in the Tampa Bay area!  If you decide to include the ship on your itinerary, keep in mind it has nine stories to go through and it is a ship…so expect lots of walking, and lots of steep metal stairs.  To give you an idea, I had 10,975 steps on my Samsung phone for that day.  😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O Christmas Tree

 

My sweet husband brought all the Christmas boxes upstairs for me AND put the tree together before he had to head out on a business trip, so I was able to get the tree decorated and set up the Christmas village, etc.  Now the house is mostly done inside.

Last year we went to Sam’s before Thanksgiving and took a little detour down the Christmas decor aisle…just to see what they had.  I found some LED lights that (wait for it)—change from warm white to multi-colored!!!  Of course we had to snatch some up to put on the tree!

I personally like warm white lights on a tree.  The men who live here all prefer colored lights though, so a few years back we got some colored LEDs.  Because I love my family.  I was never really in love with these lights—anybody else get a weird “Ahhh, my eyes, my eyes, those blue lights!” thing from LEDs?  Maybe it’s just me.  Anyway, finding these lights that SWITCH BACK AND FORTH and also have a twinkle setting for each colorway, and don’t blind me with the blue bulbs…was like. Christmas. in. October.  I can have my simple white lights, they can have the festive colored lights.  Win-Win!

My clever younger son decided on a system of even/odd with white on even days and colors on odd days.  He got up every morning and switched them over.  Not happening this year, he is a real live teenager now that he’s sixteen, and he prefers to sleep in.

Our tree is old.  Many years old.  But it gets the job done and I think when it starts looking super tatty I might try a DIY flocking thing on it to get a few more years out of it.  As I gaze at it from my spot at the dining room table, I notice that it is listing ever so slightly to port.  Let’s assume that makes it more realistic.

I don’t know if these particular lights are available anymore.  I looked at Sam’s Club online and did not find them.  I haven’t been to stores, but with all the places selling Christmas lights, there’s a good chance something similar can be found if you like the option of switching back and forth.

When installing these lights, I go from the bottom up and drape the string in and out on each branch.  More or less.  I try to keep all the little control boxes in a similar general area so they can be found easily for switching back and forth.  There are six strings on the tree, so six little boxes are all in a cluster on the back left side of the tree.  Five are always easy to find, the sixth is a struggle.

   

The topper is a big paper snowflake that I made because I haven’t found what I really want to top the tree yet.  Last year was a big old shiny gold bow with long streamers, but I just wasn’t feeling it this year.  The search is on for the perfect tree topper.  I might have to make one…

 

Coming soon, putting up the Christmas village and other Christmas-y things inside and outside…and a tutorial on the little felt snowmen on my tree.

Which lights do you prefer on your tree?

 

Well, here goes…

Oklahoma State University campus in Stillwater, Oklahoma looking stunning with fall color this year.

 

I am starting this blog to share recipes, DIY and craft projects, tips, travel stories, photographs, and whatever else happens to sound good at the time.

 

The old barn at my mother-in-law’s farm

 

 

Double Knockout rose in November

 

 

A glorious Oklahoma sunset