IN THE YARD: Hot Lips salvia

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What a nice plant it is that looks pretty most of the year, is a little unusual-looking and requires practically no care.

The Hot Lips salvia is flirtatiously named for the bright scarlet at the top of the little flower, on petals shaped like the cupid’s bow of the upper lip. The rest of the flower is a pure white that brightly sets off the little blooms against their green foliage.

The compact, perennial shrub that grows to a height of about 3 feet to 4 feet likes full- to part-sun and is tolerant to drought.

It’s said that when the leaves are crushed, there’s a nice, mint-like fragrance, but I must admit that in all the years that Hot Lips salvia has bloomed alongside my fence, I’ve never tried that.

BIRDS AT HOME It appears there’s a science to situating a birdhouse.

If it’s too hot to get out in the garden much these days, maybe it would be nice to stay cool indoors, gaze out at the lawn and consider the best spot for birds to shelter.

In an article for the Palouse Audubon Society that serves regions of Idaho and Washington, author Tom Weber tells of the measures to consider for a birdhouse wherever you live:

  • Face the entrance of the birdhouse east to northeast, to avoid overheating and prevailing winds.
  • The area of the yard in front of the birdhouse should be open and unobstructed.
  • Since young birds leaving the nest fly towards a close tree or bush, situate the entrance to the birdhouse near such greenery or near something like a fencepost.
  • A rough surface inside and outside makes the birdhouse easier for adult birds to get into and for baby birds to climb out of.
  • Never put up a birdhouse with a perch below the entrance hole — predator birds find it a convenient place to wait.
  • Clean out the nests after each brood has fledged. Many birds who nest in birdhouses (called “cavity nesting birds”) won’t nest again in a birdhouse full of old nesting.

Ellyn Couvillion

Advocate staff writer