OE wyrtig, adj: Garden-like, full of plants;
On anum wyrtige hamme, Homl. Skt. ii. 30:312



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Clary sage, Salvia sclarea



Clary Sage
Salvia sclarea



Description     Propagation     Cultivation       Harvest

Salvia sclarea

Salvia, from Latin salvare, to save
Sclarea, from Latin clarus, clear

Common names, modern

Clary sage, clarry, clear eye, toute bonne (all good), Muscatel sage (added, along with elder flowers, to Rhine wine to create imitation Muscatel)

Common names, early Claretum, sleriga, slarie


Lifespan Biennial or short lived perennial
Cold hardiness Zones 5-9
Size 24-48" tall by 12-24" wide
Habit Triangular habit, broad at the base with narrow flower spike at the tip, can be a bit raggedy
Flower Spikes of pale, pinkish-white or mauve flowers with a strong, often unpleasant odor; one medieval name for this plant was cattes micgean, cat's urine. White cultivar is also available.

Leaves are covered with fuzz; square stems; lower leaves are up to 12" long; leaves become shorter the higher on the stem they appear.


The seeds have a mucilaginous coating; when someone got something in their eye, the wet seeds could be placed in the eye. The object would adhere to the seed, and then both could be removed. This treatment was used as far back as Theophrastus. A tea made with the leaves was also used as an eyewash.

By seed Easy to start from seed, either inside or in the garden; outside, sow in spring when soil is warm.
Germination temperature 65-70 degrees F
Germination time 12-15 days
Moisture Moist soil to germinate
Light Needs light to germinate


Soil Sandy
Moisture Well drained soil essential; Clary is drought tolerant
Light Full sun
Natural habitat Dry, full sun, meadows, hillsides, ditches
Vigor Will self sow; not invasive for me, but it is in some gardens
Diseases Seldom affected by pests or diseases
Pests  Spider mites, aphids; treat with insecticidal soap
Companion plants A good companion for beans, cabbage, carrots; scent may repel pests

A tall, rangy plant, Clary sage is interesting alone, as a specimen plant, or in a group, with exuberant plumes of blossoms and bright green foliage. Because its odor is unpleasant to many, it's a good idea to plant it away from pathways, as its scent is released when its leaves are brushed.

Season to bloom/

Blooms midsummer; as flowers fade, cut back and Clary will often rebloom. Don't prune in late fall, or plant may not survive through winter.


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