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Reader q&a on sage problems:

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I have a sage plant that has become very scraggly and thick limbed, the top leaves are brown and ugly and the new growth is coming in. How do I make this plant smaller as it is taking over my garden; and how do I get rid of the scraggly look?

The Green Chronicle replies...

In general, sage, of which there are many different varieties, does not like extremely cold or damp conditions. I hope that your sage has been growing in quite a sunny and well drained position, don't forget that you will not get satisfactory results if you don't pay attention to the nature of the plant you are growing. From your question it sounds as if your sage has either not been regularly harvested (pairs of leaves pinched from soft stems), or has not been trimmed back in the spring. You might try cutting the woody growth right back to see if the sage plant produces new growth from the bottom. If you leave this until the summer, then you can use any soft stem cuttings for propagation - in effect producing clones from your parent plant. Taking cuttings like this is a good insurance policy against the failure of the old plant, and in any event it is good practice to renew your perennials like this. The following spring, once the cuttings have rooted in pots, plant out at a spacing of at least 300mm (12 inches) in a sunny well drained location. If you have very cold winters you might like to protect your sage plants with a fleece a net, or even brush wood to keep off the worst of the frost.