Soft, silvery, foliage is a desirable decorative feature in gardens. To augment the bright silver of native Pearly Everlasting and subtle silvery-grey of Parlin’s (Plantain-leaved) Pussytoes, I now offer the silky silver of Fringed Sage. It is much more hardy than the popular but notoriously finicky and short-lived Silver Mound, the standard garden centre offering. Compared to the neat rounded shape of Silver Mound, Fringed Sage (Artemisia frigida) is informal. Indeed, it can look a bit unkempt during flowering. If you want a low, neat effect, trim the flowering stalks as they form in mid-summer to promote attractive silvery bushiness for the autumn garden.

Fringed Sage requires dry, infertile soil and full sun; it does not survive in seasonally wet sites. It prefers an acidic soil. Fringed Sage is technically a sub-shrub, that is, it has a woody base. The woody structure can be pruned lightly to help shape an individual plant. If you have the space, consider growing Fringed Sage in a mass planting, to emphasizes the lovely soft silvery effect. The little bushes are rhizomatous and will, in time, form a ground-covering mat, easily limited by shade from taller neighbours.,

Fringed Sage has a large range in western Canada, extending north into North West Territories and Yukon. It does not occur naturally in the Ottawa Valley. There are a large number of Sage or Sagebrush species native to western Canada but only one native to eastern Canada, Field Sagewort (Artemisia campestris) and it is biennial and not especially decorative.

The flowers of Fringed Sage are wind-pollinated so it is of no interest to pollinators. The aromatic foliage is not eaten by deer or other mammals. On their native prairies, Sages have several specialized insect herbivores. In our area, Field Sagewort is eaten by certain insects, and they may also eat Fringed Sage.

I have not yet tried it, but I read that leaves of Fringed Sage can be burnt on campfires to repel mosquitoes.

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