There are so many salvias to love. I’m going to show you three to salivate over. They will take your garden on a flight beyond the ordinary. Save this page for next spring, run out to your garden center and search/ask for any of these. Better yet, ask now so they can start cuttings for spring. If we don’t ask, they won’t grow them.
S. splendens ‘Van Houttei’ is a favorite. I try to find it and the selection ‘Wendy’s Wish’ each spring. There is also a solid red variety ‘Paul.’ This year, I found the burgundy/red strain at Bustani Plant Farm, but I had to ask for it. Apparently, it isn’t a hot seller in spring because salvias aren’t all that showy then.
Well, duh, of course they aren’t. They need heat to perform. When the mercury rises, watch how they glow in morning light.
Red and hot pink salvias are extremely popular with hummingbirds. Below is S. ‘Wendy’s Wish.’ I ordered it online from eBay of all places. You can also get plants from Park Seed, but wait until next spring to order. These salvias are only hardy to USDA Zone 9 and will not overwinter here. The plants I ordered were small, but it didn’t take long for them to catch up to the bigger Bustani plants. These are not the diminutive salvias you buy in six packs at the box stores. They grow about two to three feet tall, and are showstoppers in a late summer garden of grasses, asters and amaranths.
One of the best things about salvias is their forgiving nature. You dig a hole and plop them in well-drained, fairly good soil, and they reward you with flush after flush of blooms. For constant bloom, deadhead regularly, even to the point of shearing them back a foot or so. That encourages them to spread out and bloom with abundance.
I’ve written of S. longispicata x farinacea ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ before when I saw a huge stand of it in Indianapolis and had to have it. That’s the great thing about garden tours. You make notes on your phone or a notebook and make them part of your garden plan for next year. Gardening is such a joy, but it takes work if you want to grow what’s beyond the realm of plants available at Wal-Mart. Believe me, there’s not much at Wal-Mart because they’re only in the plant business to snag your money during the craze of spring buying. They go for the cheapest and brightest plants they can find along with the norm like S. farinacea ‘Victoria Blue.’ It’s beautiful, but you can grow so much more.
Salvias make your garden fabulous, and do so without any fuss. I haven’t mentioned all the salvias I’m growing this year, but they include several different S. farinacea ones from pale blue Cathedral™ Sky Blue that Helen Weis brought me from Colorado, to bi-colored ‘Strata.’ There’s tried-and-true S. guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’, a gorgeous color combination with the growth habit of the ‘Wendy’s Wish.’ There is also a light blue version, S. guaranitica ‘Argentina Skies.’ The giant salvias live up to the hype and grow larger than almost any other. Mexican sage would be one that might get taller. Next I want to try S. sclarea (clary sage) and S. semiatrata, not sold here, but can be purchased from Annie’s Annuals. Another sage I plan to buy is S. microphylla x greggii ‘Dancing Dolls’ sold by Plant Delights, which must be a variation from ‘Hot Lips’ below. Some of these are perennial, and some are not. Be sure to check your nursery tags for more information.
How many salvias are there? No one is quite sure, but they number between 700 and 1000. That’s a whole lot of sage. Yes, I realize I gave you more than the three promised in my title, but how can I stop? Buy two or three ornamental salvias for your garden, and you won’t be able to stop either. You’ll thank me though.