winter blooming salvias

voodoobrewJanuary 4, 2010

Why don't nurseries (particularly in CA) offer more of these?? I see Californians online boohoo-ing about the lack of color in their garden in winter... yet it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that there are several salvias which are spectacular in winter. Right now, in my garden and in local botanical gardens, these reign supreme:

S. wagneriana










And their hybrids...

Plus, I've seem many others still blooming... and it's January. e.g. S. elegans, chiapensis, mexicana, semiatrata, Anthony Parker, Indigo Spires, vanhouttei, sagittata, and several others which I am forgetting at the moment.

So, why do my local nurseries only offer the same old boring "winter blooms"?? But none of these salvias? Why are they so rare in the trade? I just bought 3X gallon plants of S. karwinskii from a local park, because they are about to bloom and I got sick of seeing them there all year long, not sold. I figure my resident hummingbirds will be oh-so-grateful... everyone else puts up sugar feeders, instead.

OK, I guess my rant is over now. :)

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Your example of Salvia karwinskii tells the story. The average person wants the same old plants they have always grown and nurseries need sales so that is what they focus on. It is hard to blame them. And then there are the big wholesale companies which operate on the same reasoning and they supply the retailers. I envy your list of winter bloomers. Living in my climate all I can do is stand on the sidelines in the company of the green-eyed monster and dream of winter blooming salvia. All but a few like involucrata start too late for me to use space for.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 6:27AM
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There are some other things at work here also. Your bigger
companies like colorspot is tied in with the box stores.
This means large crops of the same product to keep tables
Sadly I work at one of those,because the local guys are
paying low wages and offer no benefits. The small
guy has some other problems which most horticulture industries have not addressed either. The bigger wholesalers have to sell product in other states so they have to grow large crops of the same high volume(turn) plant material.
If someone was smart they would learn to grow some of there own product and be different. A few Nurseries here have done this with great success here. But as Ward said many times there is a lack of interest on lots of the buying public side. People moving into new areas want to grow what is familiar not what can be new and different.
I am with you! If more people would think outside the box
it would force a industry that is slow to change.
Education can be one way of helping change that.
But you have some better resources in California. Here in
Texas the Botanical Gardens don't think outside the box

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 8:41AM
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desertsage(7b USDA Sunset 10)

I agree, in a past life I was a Master Gardener and a Docent at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I worked all the wonderful plant sales for years. Only a few folks would venture into the unknown. Mountain States supplied a lot of our sale plants, and would try out their new selections. But some people are stuck in their ways, and lots of good plants go unsold. I was always like a child in the candy shop......

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 9:09AM
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Thanks for the explanations. I wish more people would think out of the box, and then perhaps supply could better meet [my] demand, haha. As it is, I have to wait patiently and drive far for a plant sale at a botanical garden, or look for unusual seeds and have the patience to start them and wait for plants, taking a risk at what will actually come up, if it's from eBay, for example.

My interest in gardening for wildlife has really changed what I look for in plants... perhaps there should be more education on this aspect of gardening. Some of our local nurseries offer seminars on such things, but I'd bet that turnout isn't that great.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2010 at 11:32PM
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The kind of seminars you speak of are often undertaken by nature centers. At least that is what happens here in New Jersey. A friend has been doing programs for several decades now and in her section of the state provided inspiration to lots of gardeners who are concerned about wildlife. She combines them with regular tours of private gardens. When it comes to tours seeing is believing and the gardens are very good at selling the concept. I am doing much the same thing in another part of the state as the volunteer director of a nature center's nectar gardens. It is wonderful to see how good plants travel as pass alongs from gardener to gardener once a community forms. It is the black gardening economy and the oldest of all gardening traditions. Many of my own plants were originally gifts of friendship and some have lasted beyond the lives of the givers.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2010 at 12:37PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

I had the same problem in locating salvias. When I first started I knew that if it was a salvia, I wanted it...if I found one I didn't have, I'd grab it and would learn later what it's requirements were. I'd been selling salvias at one of the local farmers' markets last year, offering the ones you don't find in the nurseries, and there are those who want salvis they are not familiar with, but for the most part buyers are looking for what they know and are afraid to take chances on unknowns. Now I occasionally hold sales, but have been planting everything I offer so that my customers can see what it is and how it grows. This is the great value of botanical gardens, so that people can go see plants they otherwise may know nothing about and encourage them to try all of the wonderful plants they are not yet familiar with.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 10:05PM
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You have a hit the nail on the head. If people see plants
they don't recognize growing some where they feel more
confident about purchasing that plant.About 20 years ago
I had a similar situation. My booth had good soil and
lots of space so with permission I began planting the area.
Markets like that alway's like someone who is giving them some free plants.My sales tripled the visual thing thimg work well.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 10:11AM
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ccroulet(z9 CA Sunset 18)

Just now catching up on this thread. Last Oct. I donated some plants to the CNPS San Diego plant sale. Most of what I donated were Salvia clevelandii. I also had a few S. eremostachya. The clevelands sold quickly, and the eremostachas sat. Most people had no idea what they were. A couple of hardcore native plant enthusiasts bought most of them. My next donations will be mainly S. apiana, which is well-known and recognized by nearly everybody. I got into propagating sages because I couldn't find what I wanted when I wanted it at the native plant nurseries.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 1:53PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

Ditto on that.I figured that if I had such a hard time finding the ones I wanted, then someone should do all of them so they could be found in one place. Still working on the 'all of them'

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 9:49PM
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Regarding the "visual aspect" that some of you have mentioned... At the December Strybing sale (San Francisco Botanical Garden), the salvia propagator had laminated pictures of every flower stuck in various pots (since most were not blooming). This probably helps sales a LOT... it certainly helped me to add a few more pots to my wagon. :)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 11:41PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

I do that also...they're still hesitant to buy if not familiar with it. What *really* helps a lot is if they've just seen the plant featured in an article in Sunset......I've considered submitting articles myself for just that

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 11:48PM
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PLEASE DO... I love Sunset mag, it's one of my favorites. Just do it! Let us know if you need any help. ;) Seriously, there are a ton of winter blooming sages (and other hummer plants)... no need for a hummingbird feeder out west.
I am looking into getting my garden certified as a wildlife habitat (and myself certified as a naturalist), so this is my passion. With all of the over-development in CA, we really need to give back to the critters.

Ideally, my garden would be ALL rare plants that would make everyone go "ooh, ahh". Variety is the spice of life. No risk, no fun. :)

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 12:01AM
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Wow, it is so nice to hear some of you out there are growing plants for the hummingbirds. I love them dearly but I don't do hummingbird feeders. I prefer to grow plants to provide for them. I live by Elk Grove so as some of you had already experienced our frost this year came a little early. It killed all the flowers on my salvias. Some of them are coming back but just not fast enough. So my plan is to supplement the salvias with camellias. I have a few but I will add a few more. As far as the varieties of salvias, voodoobrew is right, there are just not enough salvia varieties in our local nurseries. I usually buy my salvias by mail order.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2010 at 11:52PM
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Just found this forum today so I'm responding to the original entry.

Many of my CA native salvias are in full bloom right now:
S. brandegei * and its hybrids*
S. dorii *and its hybrids*
S. mellifera *just starting now in late Jan.*
S. munzii
S. x bernardina
S. leucophylla
S. eremostachya *beginning to bloom like today, along with a hybrid w/ S. trident, I'm almost sure of*
...along with others that I'm sure I have forgotten to mention.
Of course, many of these species are distant from their native habitat...I'm close to the coast and 400' elev.
and a great many others are sending up shoots and should be in bloom by March. It seems that this year is a little earlier on the bloom cyle for many of my specimens.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 7:21PM
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My experience in selling many of the species you mention is that when people are shopping for plants, ie Spring, they aren't blooming...Or, as with beauties like wagneriana, they look like hell in a pot. 'Tequila': same thing! I would have to sing and do interpretive dance to convince the already timid public to buy...actually the dancing may have scared them further!!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2010 at 1:30PM
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