In The Garden

Welcome to "In The Garden" by Kevin Milaeger -
a series of topics applying our knowledge and expertise
as growers to help you achieve a more beautiful and satisfying landscape.

Enjoy! And as always, we welcome your feedback.

Blue Salvia 

One of the stars of this summer’s flower garden is the annual blue salvia. I am most impressed with the type known as Anise Sage (salvia guaranitica) because of its multitudes of brilliant blue flowers over a long season. It gets its common name from its leaves - when they are bruised, an anise scent is released. I refrain from calling it by its other common name - Hummingbird Sage, because most every salvia attracts those lovely creatures. The Anise Sage comes from South America - Brazil and the countries on its southern border. Technically it is a perennial, but only hardy to about zone 8. In our climate, we definitely treat it as an annual.

'Black and Blue'
This year we grew two types of this plant, a cultivar called ‘Black and Blue’, and the plain species, S. guaranitica. Both are colored a very intense blue. I hesitate to call them true blue, because gardeners often disagree on the precise description of a flower color. One thing is certain - every visitor to our garden has marveled at the striking color of these flowers. Flower size is about 1 ½” long, with a deep throat. ‘Black and Blue’ has a rich marine blue flower, accented with a blue-black calyx. The calyx is a sort of sheath that protects a flower before it opens. In this case, it remains on the base of the flower after it opens, creating an interesting effect. The other variety is slightly lighter in color, with a green calyx. Both plants bloom over an extended period. Deadheading is not necessary, but we do like to prune out the spent flower stems. The wiry stems turn brown-black with age. This is a simple task and it allows us a chance to see the flowers up close, and to appreciate the anise scent of the leaves.
This salvia is a good sized plant. We usually see a height of 24-36”, and a similar spread. In milder climates, it can grow considerably larger. The leaves are a fresh, medium green and about 2” long. They have a fine covering of pale green “hair.” Any type of hair or down on a leaf usually indicates that the plant is a sun lover, and that is the case here. The overall effect is that of an almost shrubby plant, loaded with flowers. They are ideal for growing in containers.

True blue is a scarce color in the flower garden. Too often we see plants that are leaning well toward lavender or purple, yet the word “blue” is part of their name. Plant breeders know how well loved and sought after the color blue is, so they give plants that name even though it is sometimes misleading. In the case of these particular salvias, we need a word such as “intense” or “brilliant” in front of “blue”, and even that might not give it full justice.