June 9, 2010

Big Bang—Blue Blooms!

Everything is happening so fast. It seems as if the entire garden is blooming at the same time.

Much to the delight of the hummingbirds, the salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' is putting on a big show.

There are many more of this salvia in the outer gardens, but the rich soil and warmer micro-climate in the cottage garden has produced the big blooms first.

If you had a shirt in this cobalt blue color, you could wear it with anything in your closet! Wouldn't that make it easy to get dressed each day?

Likewise, in the garden, you can plant this salvia with white, yellow, orange, pink, purple, red and even other blues—such as the blue cornflowers in the next photo. The cornflowers were sown from seeds last autumn and selected to let the blues sing together.

But, what is on the other side of the salvia? The tall stature of salvia 'Black & Blue' makes it a perfect candidate to use as a backdrop for shorter plants, such as coneflowers.

The coneflowers (echinacea 'Prairie Splendor') will soon be joined by blooms of bee balm (monarda 'Raspberry Wine') for a favorite combination. If you look closely on both sides of the salvia, you may notice that there are also a few plants of rose campion in the mix.

Of course, I shouldn't ignore the attributes of the lush foliage! The wide leaves of deep lime look especially refreshing on hot summer days.

If you garden in zones 7b-11, salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' is a perennial. They are late to emerge in spring and just when I give up on them, I'll spot a shoot of green a few feet away from the mother plant. Yes, it can travel quite aggressively in the warmer zones. Since I garden in 7b, I don't always get a repeat of all of my plants, but I grow enough that I can usually keep the plantings going year-after-year.

As for rabbits and deer, I've not experienced anything beyond an occasional bloom nibble. Of course, your experience may vary, depending upon the hungry critters in your neighborhood.

When happy, 'Black & Blue' can grow anywhere from three feet to a towering six feet in height. Definitely place it at the back of the garden in the warm zones.

Other companions that I'm using in the outer gardens with salvia 'Black & Blue' include purple fountain grass (annual here), Russian sage, agastache, and buddleia.

I've even used the salvia in containers, but doing so in my zone (or colder) requires overwintering the container in a garage. When overwintering in the ground, I do not cut the stems back in the fall. Placing stones or rocks around the base of the plant will also help soak up winter sun and provide a bit of warmth.

I can't imagine my garden without salvia 'Black & Blue', even with the extra precautions.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.
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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