September 25, 2008

Excitement over Salvias

Yes, I went plant shopping again! During our visit to Denny Werner’s garden, he said that Plant Delights Nursery sells a Winkler’s gaillardia that is purple. Since Plant Delights Nursery was also having an open house (the nursery is primarily mail order), it was a great opportunity to go shopping. Off we went to buy the gaillardia on Sunday. I came back with that gaillardia, and more. I had my mind set on salvia ‘Purple Majesty’, but a few more salvias found new homes in my garden.

I’m not a salvia collector, but I can’t seem to have enough of this plant in my garden! In fact, trying to comprehend the number of salvia varieties available is simply overwhelming to me. I foresee winter reading to research other salvias that will work well in my North Carolina zone 7 gardens. A great resource website with photos and information is Robin’s Salvias in the United Kingdom.

There are often articles about individual salvia, yet I see little information about the use of salvias in garden design. Salvia is the perfect plant in my full sun garden. The attributes of my favorites include: color and texture, a long bloom season, as well as deer and rabbit resistance. I’m using salvia more and more in my outer gardens. I’ve become so fond of salvia, that I’ve started adding them to my fenced cottage garden, too.

I’ve planted ‘Purple Majesty’ next to the red salvia greggii in the butterfly garden. ‘Purple Majesty’ sage has wide leaves such as found on ‘Black and Blue’, a hummingbird favorite. The deep purple blooms look great beside the red greggii that have been blooming since spring. The ‘Purple Majesty’ grows to about 4 feet, so I’m using it in the middle slope of the garden. Other salvia players in the butterfly garden include ‘Marcus’ and ‘Caradonna’, but I need to move those to more prominent locations. I also use tall verbena and nepeta for more purple in this grouping.

Another favorite greggii is ‘Dark Dancer’ that is already growing in two clumps in my front garden. I bought a third one to create a mass planting. Established companions include crape myrtle ‘White Chocolate’ for the deep burgundy foliage that echoes the deep raspberry bloom color of ‘Dark Dancer’, Echinacea ‘Ruby Star’, echinops ‘Ritro’, spirea ‘Neon Flash’ and a pink muhly grass. I’ve been moving agastache ‘Salmon and Pink’ to this vignette for another long blooming perennial. ‘Dark Dancer’ has narrow leaves and grows to about 3-4 feet high and wide. Right now, mine are in full bloom.

For my cottage garden, I have added the purple salvia greggii ‘Diane’ and the white ‘Texas Wedding’ to a narrow bed that is based on whites, purples and pale yellow blooms in summer. In spring, this bed is dominated by cottage pinks. These are short sages of 18” and 24”, respectively. On the other side of the stream in the cottage garden, I have already been “remodeling” a garden bed where I added salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’ and a deep pink salvia greggii that was simply labeled ‘Autumn Sage’ that I had picked up on a shopping trip earlier this month. The deep blue and the deep pink blooms are a striking combination based on blue tones, especially since the two plants also have different leaf shapes.

Next summer, these autumn planted salvias will be large enough to be fully appreciated and we'll see how well these design combinations work in the garden! Let the excitement continue…

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Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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