Winner is written all over it

Winner is written all over it

Black & Bloom Salvia fascinates with color and pollinators

Cobalt Blue and Indigo Blue are two terms I see regularly describing one of the relatively new Black & Bloom salvia plants, one of the hottest plants on the market. Hummingbird magnet and hard as nails are other qualities that let you know this is a special plant.

It’s not every day that a plant scores highly in trials as a southern and northern annual arrives in Canada, but that’s the case for Black & Bloom. Shamefully, I’ll tell you when I first heard the plant’s name, I thought someone was making a cheap knockoff or knockoff of Black and Blue, which I loved.

This was certainly not the case, and if I had been told that Ball FloraPlant was behind the engineering of this sage, I would have instantly known it was something special, as they are gurus in all things sage. Black & Bloom has written an all around winner in so many ways.

It is vigorous, reaching 48 inches in height and width, and the leaves are thicker and able to withstand more sun than its predecessor. The stems are strong and black, which makes the cobalt blue flowers with black sepals even more showy. As experiments have shown, due to its early flowering, even the far northern regions of the United States and Canada can enjoy the rare beauty of this plant.

As further proof of their amazing performance in the garden, they are included in the Southern Living Plants and Sunset Western Garden Collection. This is a wonderful plant that you should be able to find at your local garden center.

Recently I’ve seen collections of Black & Bloom that simply amazed me. The first was a partnership with Vermillionaire cuphea, another champion in the world of hummingbird plants. The red, orange and yellow tubular flowers created a dazzling marriage with the cobalt blue blooms of the salvia.

Other eye-catching combinations have seen it paired with the color apricot. In these plantings, there was one used with Flying Colors Apricot diascia, a relative of the snapdragon, and another with Saucy Apricot Salvia. There is something very special about combining these two rare garden colors together.

To plant your site, choose a full sun location for best blooms. This plant is winter hardy from zones 8-10 but only with good drainage. Couple a cold winter with wet soil and the plant will become history. As mentioned earlier, this will be one of the best annuals you can grow in cooler regions, as it thrives from summer until frost.

Prepare your bed by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter such as fine pine bark or compost, to a depth of 8 to 10 inches. While preparing the bed, add 2 pounds of a 12-6-6 slow-release fertilizer with simple nutrients. Plant them at the same depth they grow in the container, spacing 2 to 3 feet apart.

If you live in zones 8 and warmer, you will likely need to divide the clump within three years. Divide in early spring as new growth emerges. Make sure you come into winter with an extra layer of mulch.

Black & Bloom can potentially reach 48 inches in height, so plant toward the back of the border. In addition to the above groups, don’t be afraid to try rudbeckia like Prairie Sun or lantana like Cosmic Firestorm, which will give you a great backyard habitat for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Surely your children and grandchildren are interested in gardening.

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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