My wife and I had the opportunity to stroll around the MezoAmerican Cloud Forest section of Strybing Arboretum last week. This is the home to a large number of late season & Winter blooming Salvias, including the group here discussed – the pink and light purple flowered species.
First up is Salvia iodantha or Scandent Mexican Sage from mid-level elevations in the mountains of Central Mexico. A large and free-spirited (a euphemism for rangy?) shrub, it features very large clusters of small pink flowers, so profuse that you have to see it to believe it. In the shade it grows almost like a vine, through other shrubs and into trees, where a branch pops out at you with its brush of flowers. In the sun it is entirely more compact, but can still grow 8 feet plus tall and across .
A horticultural variety of this species, ‘Louis Saso’, has much larger leaves, pink petioles and substantially larger flowers that are of a deeper shade of pink. Planted side by side, these two make a great combo.
Salvia purpurea or Guatamalan Purple Sage is a simply beautiful shade of light violet purple. It grows very much like S. iodantha, but to a smaller size and with a more shrubby growth habit. In colder Zones it is an herbaceous perennial, and even in temperate gardens can benefit from a hard shearing before the new growth cycle in Spring. It has a wide range in the wild, from Southern Mexico almost to Panama, again in the mountains. It will take shade, but loves our sun here on the Coast.
Salvia littae or Litta’s Purple sage has furry, almost florescent brilliant magenta flowers are the larger than the first two species we have discussed, and although not as numerous as S. iodantha or S. purpurea, they are ultra-showy – almost gaudy. From the high mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico, this is a shade grower that can ramble and root through other plants. I really wouldn’t call in invasive – just lively. Believe me, its flowers are special enough you will appreciate its vigor. And once again, this one is an herbaceous perennial in the wild and often treated as one in the garden. Last but not least, the lime-green leaves are quite attractive.
These Winter blooming Sages are coming into their peek now, for your enjoyment through the short days ahead. Enjoy their perky color on a grey day.