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Plant of the Week: Azure blue sage

October is one of the best months to enjoy New York City since it's the time of year when we transition from hot summer weather to crisp fall days. Daylight is getting shorter, students are back in school, and the whole city is humming with activity. It's also a particularly beautiful time on the High Line. Our grasslands have reached their full, majestic height and migrating birds use them for food and shelter. Fall color is beginning to appear on our trees and shrubs, and some of our perennials have grown so much over the summer that they're almost spilling out of their beds. One highlight of the late summer and early fall is a late-blooming sage—Salvia azurea, or azure blue sage. With striking blue flowers, visitors can't miss it during a stroll through the park.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.
Salvia is the largest genus in the Lamiaceae (a.k.a. mint) family, with nearly 1,000 species. Salvia can be found around the world in many forms, including annual, biennial, and perennial herbs, as well as woody shrubs. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators tend to love them. In fact, a common characteristic of this family involves the method of pollination. When the bee enters the salvia flower, it triggers a "lever" that makes the flower stamen deposit a small amount of pollen on the bee's head. When the bee backs out of the flower, it resets the lever to make it ready for the next pollinator and then carries the pollen to another flower, allowing the plant to reproduce.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

The High Line features several types of salvia, including spring blooming sage in the Chelsea Grasslands. In the fall, azure blue sage is the particularly tall and showy member of the family, often reaching heights of five feet. Its native range stretches from the Upper Midwest to the Deep South, living as far west as Utah and as far east as New York State. It's a prairie plant and prefers conditions that you may find in that environment—lots of sun and well-drained soil. The Salvia azurea has been blooming for several months and still looks great in October with its distinctive light blue flowers that pop against the green backdrop of the park. Other characteristics of this species include a hairy stem and lance-shaped leaves. It handles high heat and humidity without any problems and needs limited water.

Photo by Ayinde Listhrop.

PLANTING TIP:

Can handle slight shade, but prefers full sun. Well-drained soil is a must, cannot tolerate clay. No major pest problems; deer resistant

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT:

Diller-von Furstenberg Sundeck and Water Feature (between West 14th and West 16th streets)

Wildflower Field and Radial Plantings (between West 26th and West 30th Streets)

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.


TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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