This summer I had the opportunity to visit the trial gardens at Landscape Ontario for the first time.
The Landscape Ontario trial beds are located in a windswept open field. A bedding plant grown there is likely to face summer's most extreme conditions. That a plant flourishes in such an unforgiving place is an excellent indication that it will do well in any home garden.
I took lots of pictures and made many notes on just about everything in the trial garden flowerbeds. Today I am going to share my observations on recent Salvia (annuals) introductions.
Salvia Black & Bloom
But before we get to the photographs and notes, I want to briefly touch on what annual Salvias have to offer the home gardener:
• Annual Salvias have long-lasting flowers and an extended bloom time.
• They come in a range of colors including hard-to-come-by blue.
• They are useful as bedding plants and some varieties are great in containers.
• Butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators love them.
Generally Salvias like sun, but they prefer morning sun with a little afternoon shade in more southern garden zones. They can be planted in average garden soil, but like so many plants, they like really good drainage. Salvias benefit from a regular watering, especially if there is no rain. An application of a balanced granular or water soluble fertilizer at least once a month will encourage good plant growth and lots of flowers.
The first series I want to show you is Summer Jewel.
Salvia 'Summer Jewel Red' is a 2011 AAS Bedding Plant Award Winner. It sprints from sown seed to flower in just 50 days and then blooms continuously from mid-spring into autumn.
I thought the nice branching and neat, compact shape of this plant was particularly appealing. Full sun and light, well-drained soil. Height: 10-24 inches, Spread: 16-18 inches.
Salvia 'Summer Jewel White' is another in this series.
Like 'Summer Jewel Red', this plant has a compact shape and blooms earlier than many other Salvias when grown from seed. Full sun and light, well-drained soil. Height: 10-24 inches, Spread: 16-18 inches.
Here is a step-back look at the first two Salvias in the series. This photo was taken at the end of August.
As you can see, the plants have a pleasing vase-shape and tons of blooms.
One last Salvia in the series. This time the flowers are peachy-pink.
Salvia 'Summer Jewel Pink' is the latest addition ot the Summer Jewel series. It has the same compact form and same extended bloom time.
Growing Summer Jewel Series from Seed:
You can sow the Salvias in this series from February to April, depending on your gardening zone. Sow them onto the surface of moist seed compost and place them in a warm location until they germinate (68-77F).
When the seedlings are big enough to handle, you can sow them in three inch pots and grow them on in somewhat cooler conditions. Plant the seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
My picture is a little blurry, but it shows you what is particularly nice about Salvia "Black & Bloom': dark stems and bright, indigo-colored flowers.
Salvia Black & Bloom can handle heat, drought and humidity with grace. Full Sun. Height: 91-122 cm (36-48 inches), Spread:91-122 cm (36-48 inches).
Salvia 'Playin' the Blues' is a recent introduction from Proven Winners that should be available in garden centres this spring.
It is hardy in frost free zones (USDA Zones 7-10) and an annual in more northerly climates. 'Playin' the Blues' is sterile (it doesn't produce seeds), so it is a good bloomer that does not need deadheading. Full sun. Height: 24-48 inches Spread: 18-30 inches.
Salvia 'Playin' the Blues'
Salvia 'Playin' the Blues seems to waves its heavy flower spikes rather wildly. Either you find that appealing or you think it makes the plant look a bit messy.
On the other hand, the Salvia 'Black & Bloom' looks a bit neater, but the flowers are much more dainty, and are perhaps, a little less showy.
Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue
The plants in a new Cathedral series of Salvias are more compact than the very familiar indigo flowers of Salvia farinacea Victoria Blue.
Of all the Salvias I saw in the trial garden at Landscape Ontario, Salvia 'Cathedral Sky Blue' was the one that really caught my eye.
I particularly liked the contrast of the pale mauve-blue flowers with the plant's grey-green foliage. As you can see from my pictures, the plants in the trail garden were bushy, pest-free and covered with flowers at the end of August.
The Cathedral Series of Salvias are available in 'Deep Blue', 'Sky Blue', 'Lavender' and 'White'.
The plants in this series are vegetatively propagated (not grown from seed). In gardening zones 8 and warmer they can be grown as perennials, but for the rest of us, they are an annual.
There will be more notes on new and recent plant introductions in upcoming posts!