Pride Time #1: the pink and the purple

Now that we’re into Pride Month, I’m overwhelmed with offers of relevant postings. I’ll start with some plants with flowers in the gay colors pink and purple, mostly purple today (with lavender for another day), including the wild pansy, aka Johnny-jump-up and tickle-my-fancy.

The red hydrangea. Well, neon pink. When I got it, it had blue flowers, with instructions to use acid fertilizer to keep it blue. Instructions I didn’t follow, so I discovered that the flowers were a deep pink, not your usual pink hydrangea, like this one:


On the next blooming, the flowers were flaming pink instead of blue, and now, in season 3, the plant turns out to be a red cultivar. Well, deep screaming neon pink. On my patio yesterday, in full and up close:



(photos by Kim Darnell)

Tickle Me Johnny. Johnny, you little pansy! Recent photo from Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden (also by Kim Darnell), of Viola tricolor, Johnny jump up, in three different color variants:


The cultivar with petals that are purple, white, and yellow (going from top to bottom) is the closest to the wild variant:


Pansies (the flowers), of all kinds, are taken to represent  human faces, while pansy (the noun) is a slurring reference to a gay man. (For a defiant deployment of the noun, see the gay rock band Pansy Division.)

From Wikipedia:

Viola tricolor, Also known as Johnny jump up (though this name is also applied to similar species such as the yellow pansy), heartsease, heart’s ease, heart’s delight, tickle-my-fancy, Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me, come-and-cuddle-me, three faces in a hood, or love-in-idleness, is a common European wild flower, growing as an annual or short-lived perennial. It has been introduced into North America, where it has spread. It is the progenitor of the cultivated pansy, and is therefore sometimes called wild pansy; before the cultivated pansies were developed, “pansy” was an alternative name for the wild form.

… It flowers from April to September (in the northern hemisphere). The flowers can be purple, blue, yellow or white. They are hermaphrodite and self-fertile, pollinated by bees.

Hmm… hermaphrodite and self-fertile. I could play with that.

Purple sages. Time to ride the purple sage, and I don’t mean mount the profanity-laced wise man for sex (entertaining though that idea is).

It’s not entirely clear what sort of purple sage the Riders of the Purple Sage rode though — quite possibly, sagebrush (in the genus Artemisia) rather than the labiate plant sage (in the genus Salvia) — but it’s salvias I’m after here, starting with this giant purple sage that grows in the Gamble Garden (photo by Kim Darnell):


In some lights, the flowers look reddish purple, in others, dark bluish purple. The plants are tall (about 6 ft at the moment), bloom for most of the year, and have intensely scented foliage. Salvia pratensis, I think. From Wikipedia:

Salvia pratensis (meadow clary or meadow sage) is a species of flowering plant in the family Lamiaceae, native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. The specific epithet pratensis refers to its tendency to grow in meadows. It also grows in scrub edges and woodland borders.

Salvia pratensis is an herbaceous perennial forming a basal clump 1 to 1.5 m (3.3 to 4.9 ft) tall, with rich green rugose leaves that are slightly ruffled and toothed on the edges.

In the wild the corolla is usually bluish-violet. In cultivation, the flowers have a wide variety of colors, from rich violet and violet-blue to bluish white, and from pink to pure white.

The Gamble Garden plants might well be hybrids of S. pratensis and the shorter S. nemorosa:


Salvia nemoroso (woodland sage, Balkan clary) is a hardy herbaceous perennial plant native to a wide area of central Europe and Western Asia.

It is an attractive plant that is easy to grow and propagate, with the result that it has been passed around by gardeners for many years. Its wide distribution, long history, and the ease with which it hybridizes have resulted in many cultivars and hybrids — along with problems in clearly identifying the hybrids and their relationship with S. nemorosa. It was named and described by Carl Linnaeus in 1762, with “nemorosa” (“of woods”) referring to its typical habitat in groves and woods. (Wikipedia link)

Some sages with purple flowers have in fact been referred to under the common name purple sage. From Wikipedia:

Certain true sages, members of the genus Salvia, are referred to as purple sage:

Salvia dorrii, also called Ute tobacco sage, Dorr’s sage, etc., which has showy purple flowers. It is a mild hallucinogen when smoked, and is used in Native American ceremonies and Native American herbal medicine. It is native to the western United States, including Utah, and has [sometimes] been identified as the plant [Zane] Grey had in mind [in his title Riders of the Purple Sage].

Salvia leucophylla, also called San Luis sage, likewise producing showy purple flowers, native to California and Baja California and used in xeriscaping in southern California.

Salvia pachyphylla, called giant-flowered purple sage, blue sage, etc., a shrub native to California and bordering areas, used in xeriscaping in colder regions.

Salvia officinalis “Purpurascens”, the purplish-leaved variety (or group of varieties) of the common [or culinary] sage.

Now, in order, starting with S. dorrii:


Salvia dorrii, the purple sage, Dorr’s sage, fleshy sage, mint sage, or tobacco sage, is a herbaceous perennial in the family Lamiaceae. It is native to mountain areas in the western United States and northwestern Arizona, found mainly in the Great Basin Range habitat and southward to the Mojave Desert, growing in dry, well draining soils. Some large native populations of this species also are found in the Aquarius Plateau region of Southern Utah. (Wikipedia link)

S. leucophylla is the second pf the “Three natives” discussed and depicted in my 5/24/16 posting.

S. pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ on the Flowers by the Sea site:


(Giant Purple Desert Sage) It’s best to plant this flamboyant native of the Southwest in spring or summer. However, once established, it tolerates winters from USDA Zones 5 to 9. Purple tubular flowers and burgundy bracts flare up its 10-inch flower spikes like flames on this softly rounded shrub.

Fragrant, drought resistant and heat tolerant, this is a sage that isn’t particular about soils as long as they drain well. Give this shrub lots of sunshine and little water for best performance.  We have learned by experience that this species grows best where there are definite seasons, and where the winters are not particularly wet.  They thrive in Denver, and languish in Los Angeles.

Blue Flame’s improbably lush flowers are offset by mid-green foliage. It does well in dry, gravelly gardens as a groundcover, border or pathway edging and is just right for a native garden focusing on the Southwest or a wide variety of American native species.

Finally, the purple-leaved variant of S. officinalis. First, the everyday variant, from Wikipedia:


Salvia officinalis (sage, also called garden sage, common sage, or culinary sage) is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant.

And the leaves of Purpurescens, in a photo by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky of plants in our garden in Columbus OH:


Only purplish, not really purple. Subtle and pretty.


One Response to “Pride Time #1: the pink and the purple”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    We planted johnny-jump-ups many years ago, and it wasn’t long before we were finding them everywhere — to such an extent that I would occasionally (while my husband wan’t looking) remove them from a place where I really wanted something else. I even saw one blooming in February once.

    Now they seem to be all gone, or at least there are a lot fewer of them.

    And I love that one of their many names is “come-and-cuddle-me” — that one is definitely news to me.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: