Monday, August 30, 2010
Salivating over Salvias
Salvia verticillata 'Purple Rain' and honey bee
Who doesn't love Salvias? They are low-maintenance, tough, reliable and lovely. There are so many varieties that you can probably find one that's perfect for almost any garden situation. I grew up in Nebraska, and for the most part, the only Salvia you ever saw were the bright (somewhat gaudy) red ones that were treated as annuals (I don't think any of the perennial salvias are hardy in that part of NE). Add to this the fact that their habit was a bit gawky...the stems were always bare for the first 5-6" above the ground, then a big clump of foliage and some papery red flowers...I was less than impressed. Then, around my senior year in High School, I discovered the blue version 'Victoria Blue' (I think that's the name) and was in love...finally a plant as easy to grow as the red Salvia had been, but in a color I actually WANTED in the garden!
Flash forward 15 or so years (gulp, has it really been that long) and now I'm in fabulous zone 8 and can grow practically anything my little heart desires (although as a recent post over at Danger Garden http://dangergarden.blogspot.com/ reminded me...my dreams of a border of Echium remains, well, a dream). In any case, Salvias I could only gaze at wistfully in gardening magazines years ago are now all open to me!
Right: Salvia Guaranitica 'Black and Blue' Left: Salvia discolor
Right before I moved out to Oregon, 'Black and Blue' Salvias were just starting to appear in Nebraska nurseries, albeit as very expensive and very not-hardy annuals. I just couldn't bear the idea of a $20 annual that I'd fall in love with and be forced to buy every year, or be subjected to pining over it every time I saw it around town. In Portland, however, it's pretty much hardy (if you can keep it from rotting in the ground during our very damp winters). It grows to about 4' tall and equally as wide. The striking beauty of the flowers is really impossible to capture in photos. The true-blue petals (a rarity in nature) emerge from jet-black calyces. The effect is electric in the garden, especially when planted en masse or in combination with yellow or orange. I don't have a perfect record of bringing them through the winter, but I'll never be without them...they are one plant I wouldn't hesitate to replace if it croaked.
Next on the list is a new Salvia to me, Salvia discolor. I got this plant from Joy Creek Nursery http://www.joycreek.com (located in Scappoose, OR). Named for the coloring of its leaves (silvery underneath bright green on top), it's not technically hardy for us here, but I'm taking a chance on it. It would be worth growing just for the leaves, but the flowers add and extra bit of flair. The petals are darkest purple, and unless you REALLy look closely at them, they appear jet-black for the most part...add to that the contrast between the black petals and the pistachio-green calyces and you've got a winner in my book.
Salvia Guaranitica 'Purple Majesty'
Here we have 'Purple Majesty', which for all intents and purposes, is a purple version of Salvia 'Black and Blue'. I saw these this spring on High Country Garden's website http://www.highcountrygardens.com/ and knew I had to have them. They are really similar to 'Black and Blue', maybe a little bit bigger, and the blooms are the most perfect shade of purple you've ever seen. Seriously, they are sumptous, divine...my powers of hyperbole cannot begin to describe them :-) The flowers are a little sparse right now, but there's still a month of summer left, and if I can get them through the winter, I'm positive they will be stupendous next year.
Salvia verticilatta 'Purple Rain' shown to it's best advantage at dusk
We end the same as we started, with Salvia verticillata 'Purple Rain'. I remember seeing this on an old episode of Victory Garden back when I was still living in Nebraska. I remember being totally smitten with it. It's flowers are just so very romantic, so very cottagey. They are a lovely dusky purple...very subtle, and wonderful paired with almost EVERY other color. I have them sandwiched between Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Pennisetum and Persicaria. They look good with everything and are just so floriferous and hardy. I got mine just a month or so ago at a Lowes nearby. They were in the clearance rack (having just finished their initial flush of bloom) and were marked down to 50% off! I spotted them as we drove through the parking lot (we were there for some tile for the kitchen backsplash...BORING) and made a bee-line to them. I gave them a quick inspection and realized they were perfectly health...one just need to dead-head them and they'd be good as new. I didn't have anywhere to put them at the moment, but grabbed 3 of them anyway. I popped them in the ground, dead-headed them and they were already in full bloom 2 weeks later...love 'em! I have them positioned in a way that I think shows them at their best...backlit by the setting sun...it highlights all the fuzzy little hairs on them and they positively GLOW!
Sorry for the over-long, rambling post...but if you think this is verbose...you should meet me in person ;-)