Sage Advice

New Salvia Varieties from High Country Gardens for Spring 2014

Salvia verticiliata 'Endless Love'Salvia verticiliata 'Endless Love'

The genus Salvia, commonly referred to as Sage, is vast, with hundreds of species worldwide. They are tough, durable plants with colorful flowers, aromatic foliage and invaluable as a nectar source for all types of pollinators. And for waterwise landscapes in the US, there are so many great choices.

I like to separate native Western species and hybrids from the European species and hybrids. I do this because they are so different.

  • For attracting hummingbirds, there are no finer flowers than the Western native sages.
  • For bringing bees to the garden, the European sages are king of the hill.

New from the Old World is:

Salvia verticiliata ‘Endless Love’, commonly known as Lilac Sage, because of its large tubular flowers resembling those of a lilac. ‘Endless Love’ is an outstanding selection of this European native sage grown for its big, fuzzy, deep green leaves and summer-long display of large, lavender-purple flower spikes. This is a distinctive, very different sage from the S. nemerosa types like ‘May Night’, ‘Blue Hill’ and others. It is a recent introduction by renowned European plantsman Piet Oudolf.  In hot, sunny climates I recommend planting it in afternoon shade. Not a xeric species, ‘Endless Love’ doesn’t want to have the soil dry out completely. Watch the big leaves; when they flag, it’s time to water.

  • 24″ tall  x 30-36″ wide
  • USDA zones 5-9
  • Rabbit and deer resistant
  • Compost enriched garden loam
  • Cutting grown

New from the Western US are:

Salvia arizonica ‘Deep Blue’ is my selection of the species chosen for its exceptionally dark blue flowers. I’ve enjoyed Salvia arizonica in the dry shade parts of my gardens where it blooms all summer if conditions aren’t too dry. ‘Deep Blue’ is a tenacious, long lived and easy care perennial with good cold hardiness.

  • 8-12″ x 12-16″ wide
  • USDA zones 5-9
  • Rabbit and deer resistant
  • Most soil types including dry clay
  • Cutting grown

Salvia pachyphylla 'Mulberry Flambé'Salvia pachyphylla Mulberry Flambé

Salvia pachyphylla ‘Mulberry Flambé’ is a very special cultivar of Giant Mojave Sage that I’ve been working on for many years. I found the original plant in a customer’s garden here in Santa Fe where its vibrant mulberry-red colored calyxes really caught my attention. This selection is different from ‘Blue Flame’ (our first S. pachyphylla selection introduced in 2008) and is more compact with more darkly colored flower spikes and pure silver foliage. Not a perennial for beginners, plant it where (once established) it doesn’t get much irrigation during the summer months. It is important to have beneficial fungi on the roots so treat this Salvia with Plant Success® mycorrhizal root inoculant.

  • 18″ x 18-24″ wide
  • USDA zones 5-8
  • Rabbit and deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
  • Low fertility, well drained soil
  • For Western gardens only (less than 20” of annual precipitation)
  • Cutting grown

Salvia penstemonoides (Penstemon Sage) has a remarkable story. A very showy native Sage found only in south-central Texas, it was thought extinct. But as luck would have it, about 20 years ago it was rediscovered growing in two isolated colonies. Seeds were collected and horticulturists at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin began the propagation process. I got my original plants at a Wildflower plant sale back in the late 1990’s from which I began growing my own seed. It blooms all summer with large, dark red Penstemon-like flowers held high on sturdy spikes over beautiful glossy green foliage. It needs a “lean”, well drained soil with sun or partial sun.

Salvia penstemonoides

Salvia penstemonoides (Penstemon Sage)

  • 24-30" tall x 12-15" wide
  • USDA zones 6-9
  • Rabbit and deer resistant
  • Hummingbirds
  • Low fertility, well drained soil
  • Seed grown

Text and Photos By David Salman

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