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  The Salvia for You Garden
  May 12th, 2007

So Many Salivia, so Few Places to Plant:
There is really no reason whatsoever for a garden to be without a salvia. Salvias are members of the mint family and there are almost one thousand species of them. It is difficult to name just one feature that is the single best attribute, but there are definitely two that stand out significantly – the flowers and the aromatic foliage. Add to those the large variation of foliage sizes, shapes, colors; plant growth habits; and cultural needs such as sun, water and soil types. There absolutely is a salvia, and more likely many salvias that would be perfectly at home in your garden!

First and foremost, in addition to the beauty, the flower of any salvia attracts hummingbirds, bees and butterflies into your garden. Salvia flower colors span an enormous range from shades of blue to purple, shades of red to orange, shades of pink to white, buff to tan, and many combinations of these.

Salvia foliage is as diverse as the flower color spectrum in color, shape, size and texture. Small needle like leaves, oval leaves, large arrowhead shaped leaves are just a few of the foliage shapes. Colors range from bright glossy green to gray green to red and to silvery white. Foliage texture can be smooth or rough and hairy. And to add to the many foliage attributes, many of the salvias are highly aromatic or fragrant. This is due to the oily like glands on the foliage and the stems. These structures, not really visible to the naked eye, help salvias conserve water and make them more drought tolerant.

Did you also know that Sage = Salvia. That’s right. Many of us are quite familiar with sage as an herb for cooking. Sage for cooking is from Salvia officinalis and it is easily grown in your flower gardens, or if you prefer, in an herb garden. In medieval times, sage was used as a medicinal remedy and was cultivated specifically for that purposes. The leaves were used as antispasmotic, as an astringent, for cold symptoms and for digestive upsets. Of course, we recommend that you simply grow Salvia officinalis for garden beauty and cooking!

There are salvias that are annuals (live just one season/year) and are best used planting en masse; most of the salvias are perennials and their growth habit and woody stems more resemble a medium size shrub. The basic flower structure is the same for all salvias, although their size, shape and color will vary. Also, how the flowers are borne on the stems (influorescence) adds variety to your salvia choice.

Plant your salvias in full sun. Mix a good soil amendment about 50:50 into your native soil. Water the new planting regularly while getting established. Afterwards, follow the watering needs for your salvia(s) of choice. There can be watering variation depending upon the species that you have chosen.

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