6 Salvia Plants for Northwest Gardens That Will Make You Drool

For gardeners in the Northwest, the Salvia genus provides us with a wide variety of plants to brighten our gardens in the summer.

In addition to culinary salvia and akasagi, these prolific bloomers come in hardy perennials such as ‘East Friesland,’ ‘May Night,’ and ‘Caradonna’—all of which have dark blue or purple flowers on stems 12 to 18 inches tall. It blooms in late spring to early summer and often blooms if cut back after flowering.

There are true annuals, such as the traditional ‘Red Hot Sally’ that has been grown for centuries in formal group plantings, and also a wide range of varieties that are tender for our region and that sometimes overwinter and come back year after year but are best enjoyed as annuals.

It seems like this array of delicious flavors has literally exploded in the past 10 years. Here are a few things that caught my eye the other day as I walked through the nursery…

Cathedral series: This is an improvement on my old favorite “Victoria”. The ‘Shining Sea’ variety has lavender flowers with white accents, while the ‘Cathedral Purple’ variety has solid dark purple flowers and ‘Cathedral Deep Blue’ has bluish-purple flowers. All Cathedral Series cultivars are dense, compact plants growing up to 16 inches tall, with flowers reaching above the foliage, totaling up to 22 inches tall. It is ideal for a 12 to 16 inch container.

Mirage series: Gregory species come in a variety of colors, from pink to salmon and red to purple. ‘Rose Bi-color’ is a pleasant pink and white variety. ‘Red Cherry’ has a nice strong red flower. All cultivars of Mirage Weries feature smaller, finer foliage on compact plants less than 14 inches tall. Again, these compact varieties do very well in pots.

“Hot lips”: This type of microphylla is similar to the Gregory varieties mentioned above, except that it can grow up to 3 feet tall and just as wide. When they came on the scene a few years ago, it was all we could do to keep them on the tables here at the nursery. Although we usually sell it as a perennial, I have friends who have managed to keep it alive for four years now. Bright red flowers with a hint of white bloom all summer long, if cared for during the summer. Now you can enjoy “Amethyst Lips”, a new purple version of this prolific bloomer.

“Black and Bloom”: A variety of Guaranitica with stems of dark blue flowers emerging from eye-catching black stems amid green foliage. I had a lump for several years in my front bed that grew to 5 feet long and 8 to 10 feet wide. I can’t tell you how many sections I’ve shared with my friends and neighbors. However, I think I finally split it to death – it seems to have disappeared this year. Opportunity awaits!

“Amistad”: This is another Guaranitica species that appeared a couple of years ago and has gorgeous deep purple flowers and grows to about 2 to 3 feet tall. With a little protection, I was able to flower this plant well into December with daily visits from our resident hummingbirds. Unfortunately, it won’t survive our winters, so treat it as an annual. There seem to be many new versions of “Amistad” on the market that sound very similar. Just look for that stunning purple flower, and you won’t lose.

“Wendy’s Desire”: The Wish Series features hardy-growing hybrids, reaching 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. The flowers are a vivid tubular purple with fluted tips that attract hummingbirds in large numbers from late spring through fall. ‘Embers Wish’ has glowing embers-coloured flowers, and ‘Love and Wishes’ has deep purple flowers.

All of the above types of sage should always be planted in well-drained soil and full sun. They are heat-loving and will languish in too much shade and be stingy with their flowers. In addition to loving full sun, they are also drought tolerant and will take some abuse from poor watering habits. Best of all, sage is every hummingbird, butterfly, and general pollinator magnet you’ll find in your garden. Whether in containers or directly in your flower beds, we guarantee that sage will delight you.

June is one of the best months for planting in the Northwest. Don’t miss the chance to try some of these long pants, you won’t regret it. Stay safe and keep gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at Sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

Balcony gardens

Free gardening classes at Sunnyside Nursery are now available online. The “Balcony Gardens” class is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 12 via Zoom. When you register, you will receive a Zoom link to attend the class online. For more information or to register, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

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