Remember in childhood when you received a ribbon for doing a super job on a task or in a competition? It signaled an accomplishment of which others took notice. There are times at Flowers by the Sea when we pause from work and glimpse a plant that is particularly beautiful and reliable. We feel like hanging a colorful county-fair-type ribbon on it to proclaim top achievement. This Best of Class list shares the plants we honor as being winners in many ways. We give them accolades for great garden performance.
Each of our Best of Class plants is marked with a first-place ribbon icon giving a brief explanation of how it is tops. The accolade marks plants that are tops within a specific grouping or species for combinations of characteristics such as adaptability, appearance, cold hardiness, drought resistance, durability, ease of growth, heat tolerance, long bloom time, pest resistance, size and usability in particular circumstances.
Regarding usability, for example, we might recommend one plant as best of class among Salvia groundcovers for dry slopes and another as the best groundcover for damp shade.
This way of identifying fine performers is similar to the kind of "super plant" recommendations that university extension services sometimes offer. We base our Best of Class selections not only on experience with the plants in our gardens but on feedback from customers around the nation. When you call or write to us, we really do pay attention.
Keep in mind that what is best for your garden may not be best in another region with different growing conditions. When selecting plants from our catalog, please read their descriptions carefully to be sure they fit your local climate and any special features of your property. If a Best of Class plant is right for your USDA zone, summer heat, water availability and soil characteristics as well as the size and light level of the planned growing area, then it is one of the best choices you can make.
(Blue Boa Hummingbird Mint) Luxurious deep violet-blue flower spikes held over ultra-green foliage. Unlike any other Agastache varieties, the flower spikes are long, wide and extremely showy.
(Orange Peel Jessamine) Mainly fragrant at night, the orange and yellow flowers of Cestrum 'Orange Peel' are the result of a cross between Night-Blooming Cestrum (C. nocturnum) and Day-Blooming Cestrum (C. diurnum).
(Uruguayan Firecracker Plant) Mint-green foliage felted with a covering of fine hairs provides a cooling backdrop to the hot orange tubular flowers of this long-blooming member of the acanthus family (Acanthaceae).
(Queen Victoria Cardinal Flower) Calling all butterfly and hummingbird lovers in areas with chilly winters: This one's for you. Lobelias are well known for attracting pollinators. This one is extremely cold tolerant and even does well in the Rocky Mountain West.
(Giant Red Cardinal Flower) Similar to the plumage of a Northern Cardinal, the flowers of this Lobelia hybrid are startlingly red. The tubular blossoms have lips that flare at their openings into petals shaped like poinsettia bracts.
(Friendship Sage) Thank you Rolando Uria of the University of Buenos Aries for this very fine plant. Discovered in 2005 at a plant show in Argentina, this truly unique hybrid sage has generated a great deal of excitement in the Salvia world.
(Tree Sage)Whether you call it a shrub or a tree, Salvia arborsecens rises up to an impressive 12 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Commonly known as Sage Tree, this Salvia grows well in full sun, but prefers partial shade.
(Arizona Blue Sage) We are so impressed with this top-performing, drought-resistant ground cover that we have rated it best of class. Arizona Blue Sage is adaptable to a variety of shady conditions and blossoms so abundantly that it seems to have as many rich blue flowers as it has leaves. It is native to dry, shaded areas in mountain canyons in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
(Arizona Deep Blue Sage) In contrast to the lavender-blue flowers of Arizona Blue Sage (Salvia arizonica), the blossoms of Arizona Deep Blue are nearly purple. They are the kind of deep lavender that you might see in a southwestern sunset.
(Rhythm and Blues Anise-Scented Sage) New for 2017, this variety is a superior version of the older standby 'Black and Blue'. Easy to grow and rewarding, this hummingbird favorite is our very best Anise Scented Sage.
(Caucasus Sage) This hardy ground cover sage grows 4 to 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide. The velvety white fur of its foliage aids moisture retention. Its soft, royal purple flowers make it stand out. We think this Salvia deserves to spread far and wide.
(Heart Leaf Sage) From the rich plains of Northern Argentina comes this delicate looking sage with heart-shaped leaves and pale blue flowers so perfect they seem to be molded in wax. Although a slow grower that requires good garden culture, this Salvia is exquisite.
(Temascaltepec Sage) In full bloom, which is all year in mild climates, this mid-sized Salvia has far more flowers than foliage. Each 1/2-inch-long, bright pink bloom has two dark pink/purple spots and a pair of white stripes. The small, slightly furry leaves add to its soft, pleasing look.
(Cinnabar Sage) Think of this plant as Pineapple Sage on steroids. It grows 5 feet tall and can be twice as wide and bursts with large, intensely red, furry flowers all winter. Our overwintering hummingbirds adore it. This cinnabar-red sage is hard to forget once you see it in full bloom.
(Forest Fire Tropical Sage) Butterflies love the abundant, fire engine red flowers of this mostly annual sage. It's a popular cultivar of one of the first Salvias used for ornamental purposes -- Tropical Sage. The flowers are dramatically framed by reddish black bracts.
(Purple Bract Peruvian Sage or Concolor Sage) Similar to its wild relative, Peruvian Sage, which is also known as Concolor Sage, this cultivar has foliage that is smooth, apple green on top and fuzzy with silver hairs on the bottom. Major differences appear in the dramatic bracts.
(Giant Bolivian Sage) Hailing from Peru and Bolivia, this tender specimen is found at altitudes of 9,000 feet in the wild. This multi-stemmed, woody-based, climbing Salvia needs support. Hummingbirds love its 5-inch-long, crimson flowers, which are the longest grown by any Salvia and flower from late summer through autumn.
(Cundinamarca Sage) This Colombian Salvia is difficult to obtain outside of its home country. As far as we know, Flowers by the Sea is the first nursery to offer it in the United States.
(Big Mexican Scarlet Sage) This heavily blooming Salvia from Mexico has heart-shaped leaves and spectacular flower spikes up to 18 inches long from winter through spring. The blooms are bright red-orange with rich purple-black calyxes.
(Makino) We would grow this rare clone of the woodland Japanese native Salvia glabrescens even if it never flowered, because the arrow-shaped foliage is so lush, toothed and colorful. As they age, the arrow-shaped leaves transform from yellowish green to dark green.
(Jupiter's Distaff) Easy to grow and adaptable to a wide range of conditions, this native of Europe and Asia is our best tall, yellow-flowering perennial. Although its common name compares the flower spikes to wool spindles, they look more like glowing sceptres.
(Gravid Sage) This tender perennial from Michoacan, Mexico, has large, rich magenta flowers that hang from the arching branches in clusters up to 12 inches long. Growing up to 5 feet tall, this sage offers an unforgettable display when in bloom.