The Glories of Salvia

This post was written by guest contributor Michael Devine, a New York–based textile designer, whose upcoming book, An Invitation to the Garden: Entertaining, Cultivating, and Cooking through the Four Seasons, will be published by Rizzoli in the spring of 2014.

The reigning queen of my garden, Victoria Blue salvia.I love gardening this time of year. Now’s the time when the garden is at its peak of perfection. There are no raging storms with golf ball–size hail, no angry high winds to topple plants, and no hungry creatures preying on my innocents. I, like most avid gardeners, have spent countless hours looking at stacks of beautifully photographed and enticingly written catalogs from favorite companies. I’ve culled, pondered, planned, and ordered.

Since I planted my first garden, I’ve been devoted to Victoria Blue salvia. Year in, year out, it’s proved to be a rewarding plant. It’s very low maintenance, needing only some sun, warmth, and water. In return, it blooms profusely from the end of spring until the first frost and attracts loads of bees and hummingbirds. Not to mention how well it serves as a long-lasting cut flower.

Last year, my affair with Victoria hit a snag. I found myself wanting something more, something to provide my garden with an element of contrast. Then, while reading the Select Seeds catalog, I happened upon what I’d been looking for: a paler-blue version of the flower I love. It’s a salvia first developed in 1934 that goes by the name Gentian Sage ‘Cambridge Blue’.

‘Cambridge Blue’: will it really be as pale as it sounds, and as good as Victoria?Now the seeds have arrived, and the period of doubt begins. Will the soil mix be right? Did I water too much or too little? Such questions signal the start of a new year in the garden.
(Photos: Michael Devine)

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