A good salvia year for pollinators

A good salvia year for pollinators

The National Park Bureau has declared 2019 as the Year of Salvia. I’ll be the first to declare a heartfelt Amen!

Then I started to think that for the garden man, every year is a salvia year. Then I entered a state of despair thinking, what if I spent a year without Salafia? It’ll be like the old song “Gloom and despair and doom upon me, deep, dark depression, excessive misery.”

That’s it in a nutshell. I simply cannot live without perennial salvias. They create instant excitement in the garden due to their spiky texture, adding a vertical element that no other plant can match.

The Garden Guy craves blue in all shades, so salvias, such as Indigo Spires, Mystic Spiers Blue and last year’s Mysty Blue Salvia, are all in my garden. I’m looking forward to Big Blue’s hit song this year.

Although I don’t have a swamp, you can expect to find swamp sage Salvia uliginosa in my garden growing up to 4 feet tall, spreading and offering sky-blue flowers that are some of the rarest colors in the garden.

Salvias are hummingbird magnets in the garden, and while they often visit the above-mentioned salvias, nothing quite compares to the varieties and hybrids of anise or Salvia guaranitica.

Black & Blue, Black & Bloom, and Amistad salvia are where hummingbirds come to feed, and they seem to stay until cold weather transports them to the tropics. These are large plants, growing 4 to 5 feet tall with a clump about the same width. The black flower calyxes with cobalt blue or royal purple flowers as in the Amistad are charming, and the camera always pops.

After nearly 40 years of sagebrush growth, it’s rare to watch for two minutes without seeing a variety of pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and rare ones such as the scarlet-bodied wasp moth can be found. You’ll be surprised at what you find every day, but only if you grow sage.

The ones I’ve mentioned so far are imported, but the United States is home to some amazing sage plants like sage or Salvia farinacea. Seeing the unruly attitude of these blue flowering spikes will be remembered for a long time.

You’ll find navy blue, gray and white selections in your garden center. Varieties such as Victoria Blue and Rhea have won awards, and Cathedral Deep Blue is as worthy as it is among the most impressive varieties.

The scarlet sage, Salvia cocina, is native to the lower southern states and a couple in the north as well. As the name suggests, it is a glorious saturated red. You’ll find them in multiple and bi-colored colors at the garden center.

Then cherry sage or fall sage, Salvia greggii, is native to Texas and blooms nonstop from late spring until frost. It is also a dark red color and another color is now available.

The National Park Office has chosen to give special attention to the meadow sage or Salvia nemerosa. May Night, a hybrid, was perennial plant of the year in 1997. It is already beautiful and hardy in zones 4-8. As a whole, this species seems to do best in Zones 7 and north. The ones I mentioned above are perennials in zones 7-8 and warmer and are worth growing as annuals.

Sunshine and rich, organic, well-drained soil will give you a green thumb when it comes to growing sage. Wet, soggy winter soil is the enemy for those of us who value these flowers. Fortunately, they are not on the deer menu.

Do as the National Park Bureau suggests and celebrate 2019, the year of salvia, by planting it in your landscape. You’ll find that 2019 will also be the year of the hummingbird no matter where you live.

Norman Winter is a National Park horticulturist and speaker. He is the former director of the Georgia Coastal Botanical Gardens. Follow him on Facebook at Norman Winter “The Garden Guy”.

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