May 1, 2011

Salvia 'Caradonna' is Grape, But Not Seedless

I was a Grape Nehi addict at an early age. I'd hunt for grape popsicles in my grandmother's big freezer. I'd run out to buy a grape snow cone from the "ice cream man" driving around the neighborhood. Purple treats tasted so good!

The color purple represents happiness to me, so when a variety of purple flowers blooms in sweet synchronization, I'm in gardening heaven.

Grape spires of salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna'
For springtime purple, the spires of s. nemorosa 'Caradonna' mix and mingle with a number of other purple companions.

Although not as popular as salvia 'May Night', 'Caradonna' is a more economical selection as she naturalizes wherever her seeds land, stretching gardening dollars for years and years. It is quite common for the little starts to bloom the first year with the true color and form of the mother plant. This salvia is also easy to transplant (or pull and discard, if you must) as the seedlings are shallow-rooted.

Caradonna is so tough! She's perfect for resisting drought, deer, rabbits and other pests. Suitable for zones 4-8, she can be grown in a variety of garden soils including clay, sandy and the good stuff.

As with other nemorosa varieties, cut this salvia back to the basal foliage after blooming for the hope of repeat blooms and to keep the foliage looking tidy. Of course, if you want free plants, leave a few spires to go to seed. When the seeds dry, you can let them fly with the wind, or strip them off the stem and toss them around the garden. I don't collect and store the seeds for planting, I just disperse them as I go around the garden.

For grape companions, I love to use the spheres of allium 'Purple Sensation'. Salvia 'Caradonna' and allium 'Purple Sensation' bloom at the same time, starting in mid-April here in zone 7b. Allium bulbs should be planted in the autumn to be ready for the spring bloom. Zones 4-7 can grow the allium, and like the salvia, it is deer and rabbit resistant.

But wait, there's more!

'Caradonna' and 'Purple Sensation' grow knee-high—and let's just say that the allium needs something to cover the gangly knees! The ground-covering, glandularia canadensis (verbena) 'Homestead Purple' fills that void.

'Homestead Purple' loves the same growing conditions in zones 6-9 and is sun-loving, drought-tolerant as well as being deer and rabbit resistant. A perfect purple partner.

Top purple: Allium 'Purple Sensation'
Middle purple spires: Salvia 'Caradonna'
Bottom purple: Verbena 'Homestead Purple'

If you're not so fond of all this purple—yellow, white and even orange look great with all three of the purple players. As for my personal taste, I'll savor a bunch of grapes!

Yellow yarrow, orange blanketflower and lavender nepeta
will soon break up the monochromatic purple color scheme.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance varies based upon the animal population and availability of food. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks, copyrights, or patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

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Defining Your Home, Garden & Travel

Home, garden and travel tips by Freda Cameron

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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