On the quiet mornings when most of the wildlife and human activity is slowly awakening, the trees surrounding the pond come to life in their reflections; this watery canvas is painted in golden yellow, mahogany and russet tones. At the Gardens at Heather Farm, the late bloomers are peaking in earnest. The stars of the garden are the Salvias. Autumn’s cooler weather intensifies their already brilliant colors. The beauty of Salvias in not just in their hot color palette, but the added bonus of brightly colored calyxes.
Calyx is the term referring to the outer whorl of sepals that surround the flower bud. The calyx protects the bud before it opens, and provides support for the petals and reproductive organs of the flower. After pollination the flowers fade, and cup-like structure of the calyx serves the additional function of capturing the seed — once again protecting the plant and ensuring its ability to reproduce.
Many Salvias have colorful calyxes that might be mistaken for part of the flower. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ is a perfect example of showy calyxes, with its chartreuse green calyxes that create a beautiful display of color in late summer. Come September and October, violet-blue flowers make the whole plant shine. Salvia ‘Limelight is quite large, reaching a height of 6 feet. Because of its fast growth and size, it can become a bit lanky. Heavy pruning in late spring and moderate pruning throughout summer help to maintain a good form. Salvia ‘Limelight’ works well in a back border. It should be planted in full sun to light shade. It prefers moderate water during the growing season.
All Salvias should be protected from frost. However since new growth on Salvia ‘Limelight’ leafs out from the roots each spring, the practice of leaving the stems on the plant until danger of frost is over will help to protect it during the winter months.
Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’ is a show stopper at the top of the waterfall gardenn where it is planted with Salvia ‘Waverly’ and Salvia buchannii. Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’s’ gracefully arching, nearly 2-feet long flowering stems look like velvet. The deep purple calyxes are almost showier than the small lavender flowers, whose bottom lips are splashed with a bit of white. Salvia ‘Anthony Parker’ was discovered as a chance seedling by garden designer Frances Parker. It is thought to be a cross between Salvia leucantha ‘Midnight’ (Mexican Sage) and Salvia elegans (Pineapple Sage). It grows to about 4 feet by 4 feet in full sun with a moderate amount of water, once it is established. Cut it back severely in late winter to maintain its lovely bushiness, and side dress with compost in spring.
— Patrice Hanlon