Documents: Regional Gardens (Canada) - West Coast:

Gardening From Southern California

by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

August 13, 2006

Blue Salvia is impressive in the garden with its tall spikes in various shades of blue and purple.

Perennial salvia often gets unhappy looking through the summer in hot inland gardens, and I’ve found it’s best grown in cooler weather. It is a perennial, and sometimes I have managed to carry it over through the summer, cutting it back in midsummer and hopefully waiting for it to come back again as cooler weather arrives in the fall. It doesn’t always work, and I now prefer to grow it for fall, winter and early spring bloom.

Nothing quite imitates the blues of perennial salvia. Victoria is an old main-stay in blue salvias, and is still very good. It gets about 12 to 15 inches tall, has graceful long flower spikes and gray-green foliage. The blooms are mid-blue and attractive. There is also a white in the Victoria class, but it’s not as spectacular in the garden as the blue.

Really tall is an older variety, Blue Bedder, at around 25 to 30 inches, with very long spikes and a good dark blue color. Crystal Blue is a bicolor, with tinges of white here and there in the crystal blue flowers, about a foot tall. Strata is a newer variety, about 15 inches tall, spikes of flowers in a good blue with a touch of white. Evolution is newer still, is an All-American Selections Winner and has violet-purple blooms on good spikes on plants that get 15 to 20 inches tall.

Indigo Mystic Spires is new, and has deep blue flowers on plants that get about 20 to 25 inches tall, in good contrast to the dark green leaves of the plant. You probably won’t find this perennial salvia anywhere from seed, but good nurseries and better garden centers will have them as started plants.

Most seed racks will have one or two perennial salvias, catalogs list several, and seed can be started now and up until December for winter and spring blooms. Started plants, when you find them, can go in almost anytime, but because wholesale growers don’t always concentrate on plants for our area, you may not find them until spring. Planted in the spring, perennial salvia needs partial shade to do its best. Planted in early to late fall plants can go into full sun.

Perennial salvia isn’t a heavy feeder, and fertilizer should be discontinued after the plants start to bloom. Water lightly in the winter, and if you want to try to keep them going for another year, trim back to about two inches after the last flush of blooms, fertilize well and water well and they may do their best for another year.

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