Ask Mr. Sage: Why Don't You Grow this New Salvia?
Dear Mr. Sage,
I saw a lovely new plant, Salvia ‘Amethyst Lips’ online and am wondering why you don’t sell it. The red and white blossoms of Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ make it one of the favorites in my garden. I think a purple and white variety like Amethyst Lips would be a fun addition to my yard. Flowers by the Sea is my favorite source for sages. Sometimes I get frustrated when you don’t have a new variety I would like to try.
I understand your frustration. However, plant developers introduce dozens of new Salvia varieties yearly. At FBTS Farm, we trial most of them, which means we grow them and evaluate characteristics such as:
- Growth habit — appearance, shape, speed of growth, and method of spread
- Ease of growth — how much work a plant requires
- Resilience — ability to survive challenges
- Flowering — season and amount, and
- Uniqueness — whether and how it differs from other sages.
Trialing is an expensive and time-consuming process we engage in to make sure that we offer superb Salvias and companion plants to our customers. So, aside from not having the greenhouse space to carry all the new varieties each year, we only want to add the best to our catalog.
As I noted earlier in an article titled Ask Mr. Sage: How FBTS Chooses New Salvias, “We refuse to remove excellent sages from production to make space for new yet lower quality plants.”
To understand our selection process, it helps to consider one of the top series in our catalog — the Australian Wish Sages, which partially benefit the Make a Wish Foundation. They are: Wendy's Wish Sage (Salvia x ‘Wendy’s Wish’), Ember's Wish Sage (Salvia x 'Ember's Wish'), Love and Wishes Sage (Salvia x 'Love and Wishes'), and Kisses and Wishes Sage (Salvia x 'Kisses and Wishes'). They are so popular that many plant developers are creating spinoffs we call "Wish-type" sages. We trial lots of Wish types and are highly selective about the ones we add to our catalog.
For example, just because a plant we like is part of a series doesn't mean that we adopt the entire group. That's the case with the Fashion and Skyscraper series, which are Wish types. We currently carry only two from each of those lines, and they are: Fashion Burgundy Sage (Salvia 'Fashion Burgundy'), Fashion Cherry Sage (Salvia 'Fashion Cherry'), Skyscraper Orange Sage (Salvia x 'Skyscraper Orange'), and Skyscraper Pink Sage (Salvia x 'Skyscraper Pink'). There are a number of reasons why we made these choices, but let's just consider one plant — Fashion Burgundy Sage. It's floriferous, resilient, and dramatic due to its deep, dark flowers, bracts, and stems. We also love its densely compact, tidy form.
Unfortunately, Salvia ‘Amethyst Lips’ isn’t up to our quality standards. Despite pretty photos online, it is a rangy plant with small blossoms and a low ratio of flowers to foliage. Sometimes we get excited by a plant’s picture only to be disappointed by its actual appearance and performance. But that’s life in the trial gardens.
Thanks for your question,