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The Sage Project Confronts Death

A long while ago, I noted the avoidance in popular garden writing of the subject of plant death. Although the death of plants in a garden is as common as a blossom or fruit, we almost always hear about the living plant, and not the process of its death. Dead plants are a common natural occurence, but in the garden they are regarded as a sign of failure, or just “messy”.

garden sage killed by harsh frostWell, I’ve got a mess on my hands, then. I have written this year about my sage project – an attempt to replace large parts of my lawn by planting seeds of common sage, which eventually would be transplanted into areas where I have removed high maintenance sod.

The entire sage project was based upon my previous observations that sage grows well as a perennial in the area where I live in Upstate New York. Over the last week, I’ve made another observation. The general success of common sage in my area doesn’t guarantee success in my particular yard.

The mature sage plants I already had growing near the stone terrace next to the back of my house are dead. They are no new growth, and their branches are brittle, not supple, to to the touch.

Nearby lavender plants, and a chrysanthemum, also appear to be dead. My guess is that they suffered from some of the cold weather we had without insulating snow this winter, but I can’t really be sure. It could be disease, but the multi-species death leads me to think not.

What am I now to do with the garden sage seedlings that I planted this spring, with the idea of placing them near the sage I already had? Should I plant them in the soil, and then baby them, or just take my chances that whatever killed the sage I had was just a freak occurrence?

Let me suggest that sage and lavender as lawn replacements may not work in cooler climates such as the northeastern United States after all. Herbs that die back to the ground every year, including as bee balm, oregano, mint, chives and thyme, have survived in the same general garden area.

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