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.
(Pink Beach Autumn Sage) When it blooms from spring into fall, this heat- and chill-tolerant sage is covered with large, two-tone pink flowers that attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds. This compact, drought-tolerant beauty also features small, shiny, bright green leaves.
(Raspberry Autumn Sage) Dark calyxes and stems contrast intensely with the bright berry-colored flowers of Salvia greggii ‘Raspberry’. It's one of our fastest growing, earliest blooming Autumn Sages and has fragrant foliage.
(Salmon Autumn Sage) Creamy salmon-colored flowers with white throats make this elegant Autumn Sage perfect for a pastel garden or as a cooling color in a mixed sage border. Bloom time is spring into fall for this petite Salvia greggii native to the American Southwest and Mexico.
(Shinano-akigiri) Japan's largest island, Honshu, is home to Salvia koyamae, a shade- and moisture-loving herbaceous perennial that is perfect for woodland gardens or shady borders. It is notable for yellow flowers, which bloom from late summer into fall, as well as arrow-shaped foliage.
(Santa Barbara Mexican Bush Sage) This compact Mexican Bush Sage was found in the Santa Barbara garden of Kathiann Brown. It is, without a doubt, the finest short Mexican Bush Sage -- hardy, tough and long blooming. Add drought tolerance and dark, rich purple flowers to its list of merits.
(White Headed Sage) One of the most visually stunning members of the genus, this large growing, tender, winter blooming species from the mountains of Ecuador will turn every head with its furry white calyxes and brilliant magenta red flowers.
(Giant Colombian Red Mountain Sage) In 1898, physician and medical plant researcher Henry Hurd Rusby (1855-1940) found this towering sage with large, deep red flowers in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of Colombia.
(Oaxaca Orange Wooly Sage) Tall, eye-catching spikes of dusky red-orange flowers that bloom from summer into fall make this one of our most impressive Salvias. Plus it's cold hardy into Zone 7.
(Ultra Violet Hybrid Sage) Hardy is a word bandied about by gardeners and nurserymen. Its use is often exaggerated. But this fine hybrid deserves to be called "the hardiest Autumn Sage." It's Zone-5 hardy, drought resistant and has lovely, soft purple flowers. Ultra Violet is a winner.
(Dry Earth Black Sage) Black Sage Salvia mellifera is one of the most common and fragrant native shrubs in the California Coast Ranges and is ideal for dry gardens. At 12 inches tall by 5 feet wide, this variety is an excellent groundcover.
(Byron's Mexican Sage) One of our favorite Mexican Sages, this large variety is reputed to be a hybrid between Salvia mexicana and S. hispanica -- a species of Chia Sage.
(Glimmering White Mountain Sage) Heatwave Glimmer isn't a mirage. It is a Salvia microphylla that tolerates extremely hot climates as well as cooler regions. It doesn't just survive; it thrives in the heat of Southern California, the Southwest and Texas.
(Trinity Mountain Sage) Heat and drought tolerant, this Salvia microphylla is native to Northeastern Mexico where summers are dry and temperatures can rise to more than 100 degrees F. It can survive winter temperatures down to 0 degrees.
(Azure Hybrid Sage) Despite its name, the flowers of this tiny hybrid aren't really blue. They are a light purple. Due to its size, long bloom time, heat tolerance and drought resistance, Salvia x 'Mesa Azure' is a fine groundcover for areas where summers are hot and dry.
(Kyushu Woodland Sage) We are in love with this short forest sage from Kyushu, Japan. Its clusters of large creamy flowers pale as fresh-churned butter begin blooming in September. Even when not blooming, its foliage is showy in a shady garden.
(Italian Clary Sage) Clary Sages are well known for their use in folk remedies, aromatherapy and cosmetics. Glowing purple bracts frame the spectacular white blooms of this cultivar on 5-foot-tall spikes. It is a delight for honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
(Yellow Hummingbird Sage or Yellow Pitcher Sage) The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden introduced this rare yellow variety of fragrant Hummingbird Sage. Similar to other varieties of this species, Avis Keedy is alluring to butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.
(Sao Borja Scarlet Sage) Three-inch-long, smokey purple blossoms that bloom from spring to fall are a major clue that this heat-tolerant perennial is not your grandmother's Scarlet Sage.
(Giant Brazilian Sage) Yes, this one is gigantic. The first season we grew this heat-tolerant sage, it reached 8 feet tall by July! Masses of small, red-orange, trumpet-shaped flowers attract hummingbirds and honeybees to long, upward curving flower spikes towering over heart-shaped foliage.
(Strong Spanish Sage) Fuzzy green stems and bracts mature to burgundy on this lovely, lavender flowered sage that roughly doubles in height when blooming. Salvia valentina is a variety of the European native S. nemorosa, a Meadow Sage.
(Salvia VIBE®'Ignition Purple') Purple once was a color reserved for royalty. Salvia VIBE® 'Ignition Purple' has deep royal purple flowers that are rare in a Jame Sage hybrid. They bloom spring to fall for your enjoyment.
(VIBE® Ignition White Sage) Never before have we seen such a pure white among the species to which Jame Sages are related. We love this purity as well as the bright green calyxes supporting the large flowers of Elk White Ice and giving it an overall crisp look.
(Light Pink Joy Sage) Salvia x 'Alegra Light Pink' is one of the most vigorous new plants at Flowers by the Sea. It is a South American introduction from Roland Uria, an agronomy professor and plant researcher from Buenos Aires, Argentina. This select clone is a soft light pink shade.
(Anthony Parker Bush Sage) Floriferous spikes of dark blue to purple flowers bloom midsummer to fall on this tidy, mid-height subshrub that grows as wide as it is tall.