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Salvia 'Sensation'

Salvia SensationThere are more than 900 species of Salvia, according to that fountain of shared knowledge, Wikipedia, and so creating one that stands out above the rest is something of a horticultural feat. Amazingly, there is a container full of notable Salvias in the Trial Garden. They're worth seeking out because you may want to plant them in your garden next year.

Everyone has a patch of Salvia in their garden and, if they don't, they should. It's a sturdy perennial that flowers reliably all summer long in New England. Most species are blue to blue-purple and, if there's a knock on the genus, it's that Salvias don't know when to stop growing. "Compact" or "mounding" are not words generally used in the same sentence with Salvia. They get tall and then taller and, once a spike (yes, that's the right term) is spent, it makes the bed look neglected. Controlling a rangy plant is unwelcome work.

Astute gardeners may already be familiar with 'Sensation Rose', which first appeared in 2007. 'Sensation Rose' was the product of seven years of work by Florensis, the European breeder. It delighted the market because of its compact habit (12" high, 12" wide") and long bloom period (May to August). For those keeping score, anything that grows just a foot high and spreads to a foot wide can fairly be described as 'mounding'.

Salvia SensationThe Trial Garden displays four forthcoming additions to the 'Sensation' series: 'Deep Rose', 'Deep Blue' (improved), 'Sky Blue', and 'White'. They're in a single, 32" container, which gives you a good idea of just how compact this cultivar is. 'Sensation White' is exactly that – an uncommon color for a Salvia which means it will likely get mistaken for something else. 'Sensation Sky Blue' is appropriately named. I'm not certain why 'Sensation Deep Blue' needed to be 'improved', but the color is wonderful.

The breeding information on these cultivars indicate that they are hardy down to Zone 3, so this is a plant that you'll likely enjoy for years to come. I could find no retail nurseries carrying them, so these additions to the 'Sensation' series are definitely pre-commercial introduction. When you finally see them, be sure to give them full sun.

The final word on the new series belongs to the gardening sage (no pub intended), Allan Armitage, writing about 'Sensation Blue' for the University of Georgia Trial Garden: "We received a number of new salvias… and dutifully put them in with the dozen other seed salvias we routinely receive. However, it was apparent that vigor and compact habit had been bred into this series and as they grew, we could not say enough good things about them. We are pleased to recommend 'Sensation Blue,' the first to be available in 2009. Compact, heavy flowering, deep blue to purple upright inflorescences and early flowering make this a great choice for spring programs. They had no problem with the heat and humidity of the summer, and we look forward to seeing them again next season."

About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

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