Salvia 'Black and Blue'
As a gardener who is always seeking out dark flowers and plants I can’t believe that salvia ‘Black and Blue’ has escaped my notice all these years. The salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ cultivar is remarkable for the bright blue flowers, dark stems and almost black calyx. Unfortunately, ‘Black and Blue’ is hardy USDA Zones 8-11, and here in Chicago it would be grown as an annual. I encountered it by accident after brushing against the leaves of the plant growing in a public planter and released the most wonderful scent and discovered why one of the common names is ‘Anise Sage.’
The scented foliage, which I stupidly didn’t photograph, is darker than other salvias. The plants I came across were only about three feet tall but the plant has the potential to grow 6 feet in height provided conditions are right. A search of Google for Gardeners indicates that salvia ‘Black and Blue’ doesn’t like to be over watered and cold and wet conditions will rot the underground tuber out. I suppose in Zones where the plant is not hardy the tuber could be lifted like the tubers of ornamental sweet potato vines and and the rhizomes of cannas and stored indoors until spring.
The bilabiate blooms of salvia are perfectly shaped for humming birds, but as you can see from the picture above they’re also attractive to honeybees who visit for the nectar while the flower deposits pollen on their back.
While I was photographing these salvia plants I noticed that bumble bees didn’t quite fit into the bloom like the honeybees did. Bumble bees were dipping their head’s into the calyx of the flower and I figured it was because they were too fat and could only reach the nectar inside by using the side entrance. But then while editing photographs I noticed that some honeybees were doing the same. Perhaps these bees aren’t eschewing their end of the pollination bargain and are just drinking rain water or morning dew from inside the calyx. Whatever it was they were doing it was interesting watching pollinators behaving in a way I wouldn’t have expected.
Have you ever grown Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ before? What’s your take on this plant? Would you recommend growing it as an annual since it isn’t hardy to my Zone or should I overwinter tubers of the plant this year and plant it the next growing season?