Russian sage is both pretty and tough

Purple-flowered perennial is great in low-water landscapes
MARCIA TATROE

Russian sage (Perovskia) is an indispensable ingredient in low-water landscapes throughout the intermountain region. Ann Seymour of Colorado Springs uses it in the sunniest, driest part of her hillside garden (shown at right), where the tiny lavender-blue flowers form a cooling haze over frosty gray leaves from midsummer through fall. Bees love the blooms, but browsing deer leave the plant alone. Behind the Russian sage are equally tough magenta-flowered rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) and the small white daisies of Tanacetum niveum.

The 3- to 4-foot-tall, shrubby perennial is both cold-hardy ( Sunset Western Garden Book climate zones 2 and 3) and drought-tolerant. Seymour waters this part of her garden only twice a month in summer. Russian sage also tolerates poor soil, as long as it�s well drained. To keep plants tidy, cut the stems back to within a few inches of the ground in late winter.