Salvia: A Sage Choice For Any Garden
Particularly Painless Plants #2: Salvia Nemorosa
If you could raise a painless garden plant that was fast-growing, tolerant of varying conditions, virtually disease-proof and that was covered with eye-poppingly beautiful flowers for five months at a time – that would be a sage choice, wouldn’t it?
It certainly could be, if you choose salvia.
Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, Lamiaceae, with over 900 specimens of shrubs, perennials, biennials and annuals. A common form is usually called sage (Salvia officinalis.) It’s the ornamental branch of the sage family, usually called salvia, that most gardeners prize.
For some reason, I only lately warmed to salvia. Too many rows of identical blue-spiked lavender look-alikes at the local box store, I guess. Seemed too common.
In the last few years, I’ve gotten wise: salvia can be an uncommonly great performer in the painless garden.
The biggest problem is deciding which cultivar to plant – or which several.
Color? The classic salvia ranges from blue to lavender to violet. You can go with the clearest sky blue or delve into deepest purple. But if you prefer other colors, you can choose cultivars in red, pink or even white.
Many salvias boast long flowering periods. I finally broke down and bought a few annual, off-the-box-store-shelf Victoria Blue salivas this spring to fill in until my newer perennials spread some.
The little four-dollar devils have doubled in size and haven’t quit blooming for almost two months now.
If you want the most bloom for your buck, though, you need look no farther than Salvia nemorosa. This particular strain has kept clever plant breeders busy for decades and gardens everywhere are showcasing the results – often from spring to hard frost.
The big name in Salvia nemorosa is May Night, the 1997 Perennial of the Year (shown above.) Reports from around the country brag of getting five months of bloom from this hardy performer.
Others argue that award-winner Caradonna performs even better. It’s also loved for its unique coloration (dark purple with red undertones and blue-black stems.)
Want some size? Indigo Spires can reach 5-feet x 5-feet. If space is an issue, Marcus is a dwarf version of May Night, growing just 8-10 inches. And if you just don’t like typical salvia color, Sensation Rose is a rosy pink version of Marcus and Snow Hill is a white-flowered choice.
Verdict: Easy to grow; among the longest blooms in the garden; a spectrum of widely available colors, sizes, leaf and flower styles; some suitable au natural for wildflower or prairie gardens and some highly bred by German scientists which are at home in the most sophisticated border. Water-sparing. Attracts bees and butterflies. Deer- and rabbit-proof.
Plants with all that are a painless choice for a painless garden. Which is why I’ve lately been looking in the online marketplace for even more and “salviating.”
How about you?
Which salvias have really performed for you? Inquiring Painless Gardeners want to know! Tell us in the comment section below.