Monday, October 26, 2009

Plant profile: Salvia

Salvia leucantha
Salvia is the largest genus of plants in the mint family, with about 900 species of shrubs, perennials and annuals in it. And what a great group of plants for P. Garden they are! Usually tough and sun-loving, they flower freely and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. And the regular Salvia officinalis is a plant you already know about if you've ever eaten sage!

Latin name: Salvia ("SAL-vee-uh")
Common name: Sage
Originally from: All over the world.
Blooms: Shades of purple, blue, white and red, most commonly. 
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 24"-15' tall and wide
USDA Zones: 9a-11b
Where to find in P. Garden: Almost every bed has a Salvia of some sort.

Salvia "Blue Victoria"
The name is derived from the Latin salvere ("to save"), referring to the long-believed healing properties of salvia. The Latin was corrupted to 'sauja', to the French 'sauge', and to the old English 'sawge', and eventually became the modern day 'sage'. Pliny the Elder was the first to use the Latin name salvia. Thought in ancient times to perpetuate good health, an Arab proverb asks, “How shall a man die with sage in his garden?”

At P. Garden we have several large clumps of Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) covered in purple and white flowers right now (top image, left) - they flower from April to December, which is serious bang for your buck. And the hummingbirds love them - they actually fight over who gets to feed there.

Salvia argentea
In the front bed there are six small, bright purple-blue Salvia "Blue Victoria" (photo 2) which are supposedly annuals (Update: they came back, but got mildewey and died) and near the giant Agave called Moby Dick we have the large, fuzzy-leaves of Silver Sage (Salvia argentea) just begging to be petted (photo 3). This one flowered in the Spring, with a tall spike of white flowers. I thought it was done for, as it's supposedly a biennial (only lives 2 years) but I read on the intarwebs that if you cut off the flower stalk when it's over, they can regenerate. And it did! In fact, it's flowering again a year later.

In the left bed a Salvia apiana (White sage, bee sage, or sacred sage) is rambling over the path with whitish leaves. This one can take an occasional prune to keep it bushy and medium-sized.

Salvia greggii "Moonlight"
Salvia mellifera (Black Sage) is growing behind the bench area. It has highly aromatic leaves, but it's not especially ornamental in and of itself, so I moved it from the front of the bench to the dog area in 2011 and it's adapted well.

Mexico and Texas native Salvia greggii "Moonlight", of which we have two specimens, grows in the left bed - it has lovely buttermilk flowers that go on and on.

Salvia gesneriiflora
In the brights bed we have the impressive Salvia gesneriiflora "Tequila" (Big Mexican Scarlet Sage) - a 12' tall red and black-flowered monster that has certainly been growing as fast as it can.  Next to it is the rose-pink Salvia involucrata - almost as tall and wide - and on the opposite end of that bad is Salvia canariensis (Canary Island Sage), all covered in downy white fluff and lavender flowers.

In the same bed, near the bench, we also have Salvia elegans - Pineapple Sage, with pineapple-scented leaves and red flowers. Then there's Salvia mexicana "Limelight" which is just getting started, and Salvia curviflora which may or may not make it... fingers crossed: it's bright pink! (Update: it died :( )

Salvia leucantha x
elegans "Anthony Parker"
And finally Salvia leucantha x elegans "Anthony Parker" lives in the red bed. I bought it because it was alleged to have "extraordinary, nearly 2 ft. long spires of midnight purple-black, leucantha-like flowers topping attractive leaves and young downy white stems." It was a long wait, but it's finally bloomed and it's quite nice, I must say.

UPDATE: Some didn't make it through 5 years of drought. Say a prayer please for Salvia elegans, Salvia "Blue Victoria", Salvia greggii "Moonlight", Salvia mexicana "Limelight", Salvia curviflora and Silver Sage (Salvia argentea). The rest are going gangbusters and tougher than a tough thing!

In other news, Salvia mellifera (Black Sage)was just boring if I'm honest, and I moved it somewhere and forgot to properly water it in. Shame upon me - it died.

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