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 You are here    Flowers by the Sea / Everything Salvias

We began publishing our Everything Salvias blog in 2010 for your enjoyment and to help you "get it right" when growing sages that are often unavailable at local garden centers.

It seems like there is an endless bounty of stories to be told. But that's to be expected when covering a genus containing an estimated 900 species -- the largest group within the mint family (Lamiaceae). In addition to Salvias, we write about other species that are either mint family members or low-water companions for our many drought-tolerant Salvias. We welcome comments as well as suggestions for future blog posts.

To access articles rapidly based on your interests, please click on the categories below, which include do-it-yourself videos (Views from the Garden). But please note: This is a dangerous place for a sage lover.

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Here are all of our articles:
Types of Bees Working in Your Garden

Posted: Thursday, January 29, 2015
Synopsis:

America buzzes with bee diversity, including 4,000 native species and many types of nonnative honeybees. Flowers by the Sea details the variety and value of our imperiled bees. This is the second article in a two-part series focused on identifying and understanding bees, becoming aware of threats to their survival and noting ways gardeners can protect these tiny wildlife. It includes tips on how to avoid bee stings.



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Sage Experts: Richard & Bracey Tiede Nurture Salvias & Community

Posted: Thursday, January 22, 2015
Synopsis:

Love of gardening is partly about love of nurturance. Some gardeners nurture far more than their home landscapes; that's the case with Silicon Valley retirees Richard and Bracey Tiede. Through avid volunteerism in organizations such as the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County, Western Horticultural Society and Pacific Horticulture Society, they are helping to popularize drought-tolerant Salvias and shape sustainable gardening practices in the West -- a part of the country constantly facing drought.



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The Not-So-Secret Lives of Honeybees

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015
Synopsis:

It's no secret that Honeybees are American immigrants. Yet along with native bees, they descended from meat-eating wasps. All bees make food and flowers possible through pollination. This is the first article in a four-part Bees in the Garden series in the Everything Salvias blog of Flowers by the Sea. The series focuses on identifying and understanding bees, becoming aware of threats to their survival and noting ways gardeners can protect these tiny wildlife.



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Cultivating Color: Tracking the Elusive History of Autumn & Mountain Sage Warm Pastel Hybrids -- Part I

Posted: Saturday, January 3, 2015
Synopsis:

Whether planned or accidental, hybrids happen. This is especially true among the closely related Southwestern and Mexican species of Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) and Mountain Sage (S. microphylla). They are native to different areas of the Southwest and Mexico, but cross freely when they meet. This story is the first installment in a two-part series initiating our Cultivating Color series. It involves North Carolina Salvia specialist Dr. Richard F. Dufresne, who has helped us track the history of warm-colored S. x jamensis hybrids in the Autumn and Mountain Sage group.



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Sassy Sage Holiday Cooking

Posted: Thursday, December 25, 2014
Synopsis: Nothing says holidays like the fragrance of sage coming from the kitchen. It has even inspired writers, such as newspaper columnist and mystery novelist Denise Hamilton. Sage is the stuff of musky perfumes, fragrant Christmas candles and great homecooked meals cooking in the kitchen. It wraps us in the warmth as well as the chill of the season.

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Ask Mr. Sage: How to Choose Plants for Microclimates

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2014
Synopsis:

Even in a small yard, you can have more than one climate. These variations are called microclimates. This article talks about how airflow may create microclimates in the yard, such as chilly areas near fences. It suggests ways to troubleshoot these problem areas and to make the best planting choices for them. Ask Mr. Sage answers questions based on calls and emails that Flowers by the Sea receives from customers.



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Portraits in Gardening: Michael and Kathi Rock's Hummingbird Journey

Posted: Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Synopsis:

A wedding gift led to Kathi Johnson Rock and Michael Rock's passion for hummingbirds. These Wisconsin birders offer tips and plant suggestions for hummingbird gardeners at FBTS. Although now known as Madison's "Hummingbird People," the Rocks aren't ornithologists or biologists. They are home gardeners and customers of Flowers by the Sea who discovered the power of nectar-rich Salvias and companion plants to fuel hummingbird migration. This article includes a list favorite hummingbird plants found in the Rocks' gardens.



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Ask Mr. Sage: First-Aid for Salvia Frost Damage

Posted: Thursday, November 20, 2014
Synopsis:

Harsh winter weather in areas that normally have mild conditions can bring unwelcome surprises, including the death of favorite plants. This article talks about how and when to remediate frost damage to favorite Salvias in warmer USDA Cold Hardiness Zones. It concludes with a sidebar about a harmful cold snap in California's Bay Area that killed plants as well as birds in 1972 and which changed planting choices at the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature that is based on topics raised in calls and emails we receive at Flowers by the Sea.



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Cultivating Color: Tracking the Elusive History of Autumn & Mountain Sage Warm Pastel Hybrids -- Part II

Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2014
Synopsis:

Luminous Salvia x jamensis pastel flowers began warming up nursery catalogs in the late 1990s. Their journey from steep Mexican mountains to American and European gardens began in the mid-19th century with the discovery of Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii). This is the second post in a two-part article about these Jame Sage hybrids of Autumn and Mountain Sage (S. microphylla). It opens our new Cultivating Color series and is based, in part, on the experiences and insights of Salvia specialist Dr. Richard F. Dufresne. We conclude with descriptions of 10 favorite Jame Sages.



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Ask Mr. Sage: How to Select Plants in Warm Zones

Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014
Synopsis:

Ask Mr. Sage answers questions based on calls and emails that Flowers by the Sea receives. This one concerns how to select plants when you move to a different USDA cold hardiness zone, such as in a warmer climate.



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Ask Mr. Sage: How Should I Space Salvias When Planting

Posted: Monday, October 27, 2014
Synopsis:

By spacing Salvias properly when planting, you avoid problems caused either by overcrowding or leaving too much space around individual plants. Most Salvias are healthier with good air circulation. Crowding leads to the spread of fungal diseases and pests, such as spider mites. Too wide of spacing may cause branches to break in high winds. By paying attention to plant measurements before planting, you can create a good spacing plan. Ask Mr. Sage is a Q&A feature based on topics raised in calls and emails to FBTS.



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Ask Mr. Sage: How to Prevent Root Disease in Plants for Dry Gardens

Posted: Sunday, October 19, 2014
Synopsis:

Learn how to prevent root rot and keep dry-garden Salvias healthy by providing optimum growing conditions and avoiding overwatering. Ask Mr. Sage is a Q&A feature based on topics raised in calls and emails to Flowers by the Sea. This one, which concerns a Salvia species that is drought resistant and native to a dry climate, considers how to identify and prevent rot caused by a complex of soil pathogens that attack when roots.



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Beneficial Insects at Flowers by the Sea

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Synopsis:

Beneficial insects help control destructive insects in greenhouses and gardens. Flowers by the Sea uses beneficials to keep plants free of pests and to avoid use of harmful pesticides. FBTS is a horticultural farm in Northern California specializing in hundreds of ornamental Salvia species. In this video, FBTS horticulturist and co-owner Kermit Carter talks about the use of predatory mites called Persimilis and Fallacis to attack plant-eating spider mites and Encarsia wasps to control whiteflies. Carter shows how a tiny box from an insectary contains thousands of helpful insects, including ladybugs, which keep his farm free of pests. The microscopically small predatory mites come packaged with bean leaves that make it easy to distribute them in the garden. Paper strips for overhead hanging contain the wasp eggs. This video is part of the  FBTS Everything Salvias Blog series Views from the Garden.



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Sage Experts: How Dr. Dufresne Became the Sultan of Salvia

Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2014
Synopsis:

December 18, 2018 - With great sadness we have learned that our friend Rich as passed away at his home in Candor, NC.

A chance encounter with Pineapple Sage led organic chemist Dr. Richard F. Dufresne to become one of America's leading Salvia researchers. Sage Experts focuses on specialists -- both professionals and amateurs -- who have helped popularize the Salvia genus. Dufresne's life course changed the day he visited Rhode Island's Biodynamic Meadowbrook Herb Farm. The study of chemistry had already helped him to emerge from childhood confusion caused by ADHD. Discovering the heady pineapple fragrance of Salvia elegans at Meadowbrook gave him a cause.



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Using Salvias in Flower Arrangements

Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Synopsis:

You don’t have to be a florist to create eye-catching designs with dramatic Salvias. By planting the right Salvias and complementary flowers in your garden as well as gaining a little knowledge about color combinations, well-balanced compositions, simple tools and cut-flower preservation, you are on your way.



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Ask Mr. Sage: How to Water Desert Plants

Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2014
Synopsis: Overwatering harms desert plants more than underwatering. When growing them, you need to consider the quantity, duration and timing of watering. Excellent soil drainage is also essential. This article talks about how to identify overwatering and establish an effective watering schedule. Ask Mr. Sage is a Q&A feature based on topics raised in calls and emails to FBTS.

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Ask Mr. Sage: Why FBTS Uses Foam Packing Peanuts & How to Reuse Them

Posted: Friday, October 3, 2014
Synopsis:

It isn't easy being completely green. Flowers by the Sea explains why polystyrene packing peanuts are essential for shipping and what you can do with them after unpacking your orders. Ecofriendly reuses include donating them to shipping companies and using them to lighten container plantings. Ask Mr. Sage is a Q&A feature based on topics raised in calls and emails to FBTS.



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How to Find Food for the Bees at Flowers by the Sea

Posted: Monday, September 29, 2014
Synopsis:

Forgive the bad pun, but we almost wouldn't be without bees. These tiny pollinators make it possible for us to eat and experience the flowering beauty of the world around us. Honeybees -- the kind managed by beekeepers -- and thousands of wild species pollinate at least one-third of the plant species we eat. At Flowers by the Sea we've decided to improve our efforts to help the genus Apis. Our first step is to make it easier for you to find plants honeybees frequent by making our catalog easier to search for bee favorites.



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Gray and Silver Foliage Lights Up the Landscape Day and Night

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Synopsis:

It isn't easy describing green in the garden. Foliage can span greens so pale they are almost white to blue-greens so deep they murmur the forest primeval. Amid this range, you'll find shimmering silver- and gray-leaf species. To locate these types of Salvias and companion plants in the Flowers by the Sea catalog, please visit our  "Gray and Silver Leaf Plants" category in the FBTS catalog menu atop our homepage. This article includes a small sampler of our selection.



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Summer & Early Fall Pruning of Autumn and Mountain Sage

Posted: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Synopsis:

Fall pruning of Salvias requires only light trimming of spent blossoms, which is known as deadheading. It increases bloom for Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii) and Mountain Sage (Salvia microphylla), which are particularly abundant bloomers in autumn. In this video from Northern California's Flowers by the Sea farm, FBTS horticulturist and co-owner Kermit Carter shows how to use sharp hand pruners to quickly remove flower spikes that have gone to seed. Carter explains how flowering plants have less energy to put into blossoming if they are setting seed. Removal of spent blossoms improves a plant's appearance and makes continuous bloom possible. FBTS specializes in the Salvia genus, which contains about 1,000 species. This video is part of FBTS Everything Salvias Blog series Views from the Garden.



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Ask Mr. Sage: When Is It Too Late for Autumn Planting?

Posted: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Synopsis:

Learn how to determine the best start and stop times for fall planting. Ask Mr. Sage is a Q&A feature based on topics raised in calls and emails to Flowers by the Sea. This post concerns fall planting and provides tools for making decisions based on local frost dates and temperatures.



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Repotting Salvias: The Basics

Posted: Thursday, September 18, 2014
Synopsis:

When a container-planted Salvia grows too large for it pot, it's time to move it to roomier quarters. But how much extra space is too much and what kinds of containers are best? In this video from Northern California's Flowers by the Sea family farm, FBTS horticulturist and co-owner Kermit Carter shows how to select the right size of pot for a Salvia based on its size and need for moisture. He talks about the differences between plastic and clay pots: Carter explains that although plastic pots may be best for conserving moisture in semi-arid parts of the nation, he prefers terra cotta clay pots for their better breathability and drainage. FBTS specializes in the Salvia genus, which contains about 1,000 species. This video is part of the FBTS Everything Salvias Blog series Views from the Garden.



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Sage Experts: How Robin Middleton's Gardens Bloomed

Posted: Monday, September 15, 2014
Synopsis:

Sage Experts focuses on Salvia specialists -- both amateurs and professionals -- in settings ranging from home gardens to university laboratories. This article concerns Robin Middleton of Surrey, England, and his popular Robins Salvias website. The longtime horticulturist grows more than 100 Salvia species and cultivars in his garden and greenhouses.



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Rootbound Salvias: Assessment & Treatment

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014
Synopsis:

Before planting a Salvia in the ground or moving it to a larger container, you should determine whether it has become rootbound and needs to have its rootball loosened. Salvias tolerate being rootbound more easily than most flowering plants. However, a Salvia needs extra attention before replanting if its roots dangle from the pot's drain holes and are so dense that they overwhelm the soil. Then the rootball feels too firm and can't be replanted as is. In this video from Northern California's Flowers by the Sea family farm, FBTS horticulturist and co-owner Kermit Carter removes several plants from their containers to show different stages of heavy rooting. Carter demonstrates a variety of methods for loosening roots and soil before replanting. FBTS specializes in the Salvia genus, which contains about 1,000 species. This video is part of the FBTS Everything Salvias Blog series Views from the Garden.



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Leonotis: Mint Family Members that Roar in the Landscape

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2014
Synopsis:

Orange is an aggressive color in the garden. It doesn't purr. The fuzzy, shaggy, hot orange flowers of the Leonotis genus growl for attention. Their stems are so tall that they may reach up to 6 feet, towering over the foliage like gawky Dr. Seuss blossoms. Flowers by the Sea grows three kinds.



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