by High Country Gardens

Salvia sylvestris Balyricose 'Lyrical Rose'
Salvia sylvestris Balyricose 'Lyrical Rose'

The genus Salvia (Sage) contains some of our most beautiful ornamental flowers. And Salvia species are found on every continent, save Australia and Antarctica. Naturally, with such a huge range worldwide, their variability is immense and they provide us gardeners with a wealth of choices for our gardens.

Gardening in a USDA zone 6 climate, I like to divide the cold hardy Salvia into two primary groups; the US natives and the Old World varieties found in Europe and western Asia. From these two groups, we have an outstanding range of plant types and flower colors.

Salvia May Night
An Old World Salvia, Salvia May Night

The Old World Salvia include some of the very best, most durable, longest-lived perennials. The hybrid nemerosa-types flower in numerous shades of blue and pink. They include ‘May Night’, ‘Caradonna’, dwarf ‘Marcus’, Lyrical Rose European Sage and the gorgeous ‘Blue Hill’. The syslvestris hybrids do especially well in heavy clay soils, yet grow with ease in all but the most sandy of soils.

Salvia Cold Hardy Pink

Then there are all the Salvia species native to North America. It is from the Western US that we find our most beautiful native species. But the challenging aspect for some of these native Salvia has been to find cold hardy ones that can be grown north of their native desert haunts. This has been an area of keen interest for me and I have been working for many years breeding and selecting for beauty and cold hardiness. Salvia greggii ‘Furman’s Red’ and Salvia greggii ‘Cold Hardy Pink’ are top picks. Salvia hybrids between S. greggii and other Salvia species from Texas, New Mexico and Arizona have resulted in some outstanding selections such as ‘Maraschino’, ‘Raspberry Delight’, ‘Ultra Violet’ and ‘Burgundy Seduction’.

I heartily recommend planting Salvia pachyphylla and Salvia dorrii in arid western gardens. These two evergreen species are native to California and the Great Basin of UT, OR and NV. Not widely known outside of the native plant gardening community, these two species are especially nice with their silver leaves and showy blue/purple flowers. But they are not for planting in areas that get more than 12 to 16 inches of annual precipitation. They are true Westerners.

Salvia reptans Autumn Sapphire
Western native Salvia reptans Autumn Sapphire, photo courtesy of Plant Select.

Two other species of Salvia that have proven themselves to be outstanding early fall bloomers with excellent cold hardiness are Salvia azurea and Salvia reptans Autumn Sapphire . These two blue-flowered species stand out in the fall garden with their finely textured foliage. I’ve found that the hummingbirds eagerly seek out these two, in spite of not having brightly colored pink, red or orange flowers that hummers generally prefer.

  1. Rose Marvel Meadow Sage, Salvia nemorosa 'Rose Marvel', pink flowers

    'Rose Marvel' Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) adds stunning spikes of large magenta-pink flowers to the summer garden. It’s a garden workhorse, reblooming without needing to be cut back, ...

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    Rose Marvel Salvia Rose Marvel Meadow Sage Salvia nemorosa Rose Marvel
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    'Rose Marvel' Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) adds stunning spikes of large magenta-pink flowers to the summer garden. It’s a garden workhorse, reblooming without needing to be cut back, and a pollinator favorite, attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The lovely herbaceous-scented foliage is deer and rabbit resistant. Drought tolerant once established. Nice cut flowers too!
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  2. Salvia sylvestris May Night, May Night Meadow Sage, Purple Salvia sylvestris May Night

    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and toleran...

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    May Night Salvia May Night Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris May Night
    As low as $9.49 Sale $9.02
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and tolerance of heavy clay soils. Blooming in late spring with a profusion of flower spikes, it reblooms later in the summer when deadheaded.
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  3. Salvia sylvestris Marcus Photo courtesy of Emmis Oure

    ‘Marcus’ is a tidy, dwarf selection that blooms all summer with deeply colored violet-purple flowers. It is extremely cold hardy, browse resistant to deer and a lover of clay soi...

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    Marcus Dwarf Blue Salvia Marcus Dwarf Blue Sage Salvia nemorosa Marcus
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $9.99 Sale $9.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    ‘Marcus’ is a tidy, dwarf selection that blooms all summer with deeply colored violet-purple flowers. It is extremely cold hardy, browse resistant to deer and a lover of clay soils.
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  4. FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Salvia with rose pink flowers, FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Sage

    A new native hybrid sage, FlowerKisser™ ‘Royal Rose’ is enjoyed for its sumptuous deep rose pink flowers. This Salvia is an exceptionally long bloomer, attracting pollinating h...

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    FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Salvia FlowerKisser™ Royal Rose Sage Salvia x 'WWG04'
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $11.99 Sale $11.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    A new native hybrid sage, FlowerKisser™ ‘Royal Rose’ is enjoyed for its sumptuous deep rose pink flowers. This Salvia is an exceptionally long bloomer, attracting pollinating hummingbirds and bumblebees from late spring through early fall. The foliage is delightfully aromatic, releasing a pleasing sweet herbal scent when brushed or touched. Discovered by HCG Chief Horticulturist David Salman, and available exclusively from High Country Gardens.
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Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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