September 2, 2008

Salvia: Keep it Simple

I'm not a collector of salvia, but I continue to be impressed by the long-lasting color of a few varieties in my garden. My favorite is salvia greggii (GREG-ee-eye). I planted five of these on a full sun slope in spring 2007. During the late afternoon, this group gets a bit of afternoon shade from a weeping willow tree. Although these salvia were labeled as 'Navajo Red', there is some debate over whether or not these are actually that variety. That said, there are other red varieties available such as 'Lipstick' or 'Furmans Red'.

This salvia greggii is evergreen for me (so far) here in zone 7 of North Carolina. Always check the zones before buying a salvia, as the hardiness can vary. There are hybrids available and several colors from which to choose. Good sources of salvia greggii include High Country Gardens and Plant Delights Nursery. I've found salvia greggii at local nurseries, too. Dickinson Garden Center is a local plant store here in Chapel Hill that is great about marking plants that are deer resistant.

Salvia greggii blooms in April! This group bloomed profusely in the spring and continued to bloom all summer. Right now, each salvia is forming a shrubby bush about 3 feet high and wide to make a thick mass of red in the butterfly garden. Of course, the hummingbirds love it; it's drought tolerant; and, it is both rabbit and deer resistant in my garden.

With the long bloom season of salvia greggii, the blooms of companion plants come and go. I have rudbeckia 'Goldsturm', tall verbena, nepeta 'Six Hills Giant', crocosmia 'Lucifer', red asclepias and pineapple sage around my grouping.

Since I want to plant more salvia, I asked the question on a salvia forum about whether or not I could plant in the fall. I have always planted salvia in the spring. The response was that, in my zone, fall planting should be fine.

A salvia expert is Rich Dufresne who has introduced many salvia varieties. If you want to learn more, check out his website that includes his speaking schedule.

If you have the right growing conditions, consider adding a salvia greggii to your garden. My simple, mass planting of one color creates a bold impact in spring, summer and fall...and keeps the garden green in winter.

Yes, salvia greggii is available in colors other than red
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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