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2019 the year of the salvia equates to the year of the hummingbird

Monarch butterflies are seen mating while feeding on the bog sage, Salvia uliginosa. (Norman Winter)
Monarch butterflies are seen mating while feeding on the bog sage, Salvia uliginosa. (Norman Winter)
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The National Garden Bureau has proclaimed 2019 as The Year of the Salvia. I would be the first to proclaim a hearty AMEN! Then I started thinking that for The Garden Guy every year is the year of the salvia. Then I went into despair thinking what if I had a year without salvia? It would be like the old “Hee Haw” TV show song, “Gloom Despair and Agony on Me, Deep Dark Depression Excessive Misery.”

That’s it, in a nutshell, I simply could not live without perennial salvias. They create instant excitement in the garden because of their spiky texture adding a vertical element no other plant can match. The Garden Guy craves blue in all shades, so salvia like Indigo Spires, Mystic Spires Blue, and last year’s Mysty Blue salvia will all be in my garden. I am looking forward to this year’s hit Big Blue.

Though I have no bog you can expect to find the bog sage salvia uliginosa in my garden reaching 4-feet tall, spreading and offering sky blue flowers that are among the rarest colors in the garden. Salvias are the hummingbird magnets in the garden and while they frequently visit the salvias mentioned above nothing quite compares to the anise sage or salvia guaranitica varieties and hybrids.

Black & Blue, Black & Bloom, and Amistad salvia are where hummingbirds come to feast in ecstasy and seem to stay until cold weather moves them to the tropics. These are large salvias, 4- to 5-feet tall with a clump almost as wide. The flower’s black calyces partnered with cobalt blue blooms or royal purple as in the Amistad are mesmerizing.

After almost 40 years of growing salvias, it is most rare to watch them for even a couple of minutes without seeing a variety of pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and those rarities like the scarlet-bodied wasp moth can be found visiting. You’ll be surprised what you find each and every day, but only if you grow salvias.

Those I’ve mentioned thus far are imports but the United States is home to some incredible salvias like the mealy cup sage or Salvia farinacea. To see a wild stand of these blue flowered spikes will long be remembered. You’ll find deep blue, gray and white selections at your garden center. Varieties like Victoria Blue and Rhea have been award winners and Cathedral Deep Blue is as worthy as it is among the most dazzling.

The scarlet sage, Salvia coccinea, is native to the lower southern states and a couple up north as well. As the name suggests it is a glorious saturated red. You’ll find these in multi-colors and bi-colors at the garden center. Then the cherry sage or Autumn sage, Salvia greggii, is native to Texas and blooms non-stop from late spring until frost. It, too, is a deep red with other colors now available.

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The National Garden Bureau chose to give special consideration to the meadow sage or Salvia nemerosa. May Night a hybrid was the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1997. It is indeed beautiful and hardy in zones 4-8. As a whole, this species seems to perform best in zones 7 and further north. Those I referenced above are perennial in zones 7, 8, and warmer and most worthy to be grown as annuals.

Sunlight and organic-rich well-drained soil will give you the green thumb when it comes to growing salvias. Wet soggy winter soil is the nemesis to those of us that treasure these flowers. Thankfully they are not on the deer menu. Do like the National Garden Bureau suggests and celebrate 2019 The Year of the Salvia by planting them in your landscape. You’ll find that 2019 will also be The Year of the Hummingbird no matter where you live.

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