Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Salvias I have loved and lost....

Salvia machrochlamys
One of the perils of having a long gardening life--and growing a few too many plants--is that inevitably you lose some of them. Or quite a few, come to think of it. The genus Salvia is especially near and dear to my heart. I still grow quite a few--but some of the most beautiful of all have gone. This is one I miss the most.

Salvia machrochlamys
I first grew this from seed I got from Jim and Jenny Archibald. It graced a dry border in my old house for almost ten years. I would get five or eight seed off it every year that looked promising. I think I even germinated one or two..but never got it established elsewhere. I'm sure we could have grown it from cuttings. Now all I can do is thank the stars I took these pictures--all I have left of one of the greatest steppe plants I've ever grown. Groan.

Salvia pachyphylla x S. lavandulifolia
This was a seedling that popped up in my new garden fifteen, maybe twenty years ago. It grew and prospered and set seed. And one day it wasn't there...

Salvia recognita x lavandulifolia
An overall shot of the same plant.
Salvia lavandulifolia
Here is one of its parents--I had it growing nearby for ten, maybe fifteen years. One year it wasn't there...

Salvia pachystachya
I had a patch of five of these that made a heck of a spectacle for quite a long time. I even harvested a lot of seed I shared on Index Seminum and through the NARGS seed exchange. And one day it wasn't there. And the old seed never germinated.

Salvia potentillifolia
This is a scan of a plant I only had one or two years--again from Archibald seed. It died before I could grow more...
Salvia microstegia
This grand plant was also grown from seed Jim and Jenny Archibald collected in Turkey. We had it for many, many years and shared seed widely. I've not seen it anywhere in ages. I know--it just looks like Salvia argentea on stilts--but what the hey! I wish I still grew it.

Salvia microstegia
A closer look...

Salvia campanulata
This is a scan of a photograph I took in Yunnan, China in 1997. It was everywhere in the open, Subalpine woodlands on the Yulongshan. I never collected seed, of course. Never grew it. But I do see it in the collection of a certain garden I shall visit soon...

Salvia candidissima
This I grew for ages: the first Salvia to bloom in my garden (once opened its first flower in March). I know it looks like a pipsqeak Salvia argentea. So what? I miss it!

Salvia henryi
My good friend Bill Adams of Sunscapes Nursery keeps growing this. And I keep killing it. I grew it several years at the Gardens superbly if I don't say so. But that was then and now is now...

Salvia huberi
The homeliest of the Archibald salvias I ever grew. I still liked it and wish I had it..

Salvia huberi
You may say "meh" but I say "waaa": I miss it!

Salvia pisidica
One of the best of the Archibald Salvias from Turkey....

Salvia pisidica
This is still thriving at DBG. But not for me...

Salvia przewaksyi
I had this for decades--and it spread around. A Chinese species that's easy to grow and very variable. And gone.
Salvia rosifolia
Another of my lost Archibald salvias from Turkey.

Salvia 'hydrangea'
It grew quite a few years in this spot...

Salvia 'hydrangea'
I grew this quite a long time: not as spectacular as the pictures I've seen of the larger--and probably true--form of the species.  But still winsome. I miss it!

Salvia cryptantha
We had this for many years. Mike Kintgen has obtained something similar. But not this same form...

Salvia uliginosa
One of my favorite displays was this Salvia ramping through the Fragrance Garden at DBG. Then one year it was weeded out by volunteers...

Salvia uliginosa
I'd kill to have this combo in my garden. I'd kill snails, perhaps. Or mosquitos. But I'd kill...

Salvia caespitosa
In fact, I still grow this--the classic form of Salvia caespitosa that's still out there in cultivation. This plant was in a friend's garden. Jim Archibald once showed a pale yellow form he photographed in Turkey but never got into cultivation--which haunts me to this day...

Salvia aff. caespitosa
What I DID lose were these wonderful taller stems forms of Salvia "caespitosa" collected and distributed by the Czechs. Not as spectacular as the other, but still very cute. And MIA...

Salvia aff. caespitosa
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Salvia penstemonoides

I photographed this last summer at Denver Botanic Gardens. But my plants never got this far. Sniff.

Salvia sclarea 'Vatican White'
I have grown this once or twice, but NEVER like this. A scan from a slide I took at Sir John Thouron's unbelievable garden near Philadelphia--maybe 25 years ago or more...

Salvia triflora
I took this picture near Olympia in Greece: I got seed of the plant from a botanic garden, and grew it at Denver Botanic Gardens for many years...until I didn't.

Salvia pachyphylla
I believe these were the first plants of Salvia pachyphylla ever grown in Colorado. Some of the very first in cultivation ANYWHERE outside California. I drove by, and they're still there, a quarter century or more after I planted them in our old house (we moved out of there 24 years ago--that's how I surmise their age (although I could look on the transparency whence these were scanned). We grow this at the Botanic Gardens, but it prefers heavier soil than at my house in se Denver. Boo hoo.

Salvia pachyphylla
One of the best things I ever did was railroad this through Plant Select. 'Twasn't easy.

Salvia aethiopsis
The year I grew a noxious weed at Denver Botanic Gardens. Actually--at the time I didn't know it was such a pest...

Salvia aethiopsis
If you know Boulder County, you'll recognize Haystack Mountain in the background...

Salvia aethiopsis
I know it looks awful--and the plant is a horrendous weed, spreading by breaking off the stem and tumbling, scattering seed as it goes. It would gleefully cover the Great Plains given time. The Colorado Native Plant Society sent out volunteers several years running who killed the overwintering rosettes and nipped this in the bud. I have noticed one or two persisting here and there, but these spectacular displays are as much history as the precious plants above that I lost to my not sowing seed or taking cuttings in time.

(P.S. Most of me abhors the nasty vista of those Salvia in the last frame smothering the prairie. But a little tiny piece of me (the little devil on my shoulder) says "Wowee Zowee that's Coooooooool")


  1. The list of great plants I have grown and lost grows every year. At some point I expect membership offers to the 1,000+ lost plants club to start arriving in my mailbox. I have started to think of maintaining plants in terms of population biology, but my garden is never big enough for things that are easily lost to reach a point that they can become self sustaining. The result is the seed companies keep getting more of my money.

    Ironically, I don't have any Salvia in my garden at the moment. The only possible exception might be a S. pratensis that may be hanging on in an old bed. I used to really like S. coccinea, but as other annuals over took the bed I did not defend the incursion and no longer have S. coccinea. I enjoyed the hummingbirds and might establish this plant again for as long as it will last. Occasionally, I will grow a pineapple sage (S. elegans). I learned I need to add more manure if I want this plant to put on enough growth to make a show before the weather turns and the hummingbirds are gone. I should put more effort into the rock garden worthy Salvias, but there are just so many great plants and so little time.

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  2. Hey Panayoti! I'm chasing some Turkish Salvia seeds and I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction. Hope you're doing well.
    Thanks mate!


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