the shorter days of September occur the Santa
Barbara salvia erupts into blooms. Here it is
partnered with golden thryallis.
Barbara, the terrific dwarf Mexican bush sage, is
playing a vital role in Savannah, Ga., as the city is
beautifying to Make Way for Monet. This award winning
Salvia leucantha is of one of approximately a dozen or
so plants designated as part of the Spirit of Monet
Collection of Flowers being used to enhance city
impetus for this beautification is that for the first
time Claude Monet paintings will be on exhibition in
Savannah at the Telfair Museumís Jepson Center Oct.
16-Jan. 24. Thousands of visitors will be coming to town
for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see not only
Monet paintings but many of the best American
said, "I must have flowers, always, and
always," and what better way to celebrate than by
planting flowers in Savannahís historic parks and
squares. The same will be happening at the Savannah
Hilton/Head International Airport, the Telfair Museums
and, of course, the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens,
where I am the director.
is where Santa Barbara fits in. This salvia has become
one for the gardening ages with its compact stature of 2
to 3 feet and slightly larger spread. When the days get
shorter in September, it explodes into bloom, not only
giving you a display worthy of a Monet painting but
attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to the
purple/lavender blooms and to the delight of all who
treasured flowers like salvias, daisies, goldenrods,
marigolds and sunflowers, and, of course, many were the
subjects in his paintings. These are the flowers of fall
that allow all of us to be the Monet of our gardens. I
believe he would have loved Santa Barbara, and I know
you will love it in your garden, too.
may even want to take some tips from Monet as you choose
your companions for Santa Barbara. He loved gold and
sapphire color partnerships, as well as blue and purple.
Santa Barbara would look stunning with Tuscan Sun
heliopsis or perennial sunflower, or Fireworks goldenrod
and the ever-popular Miss Sunshine sunflower. But
consider adding some blue as well with Mystic Spires
Blue salvia or Sky Blue asters.
ideal site is full sun, though a little afternoon shade
is tolerated. The soil should be very well drained, so
plant on raised beds or amend heavy soils with the
addition of compost or humus. Santa Barbara is
considered a zone 8 perennial, but well-drained soil may
be the crucial factor encouraging next yearís spring
return farther north than expected. It is also a worthy
annual, and because of its size will work in mixed
preparing the soil, incorporate 2 pounds of a
slow-release fertilizer like a 12- per 100 square feet
of bed space. Space the plants 18 to 24 inches apart,
planting at the same depth they are growing in the
container. Do not plant under streetlights or
floodlights; remember, these bloom in response to the
number of dark hours.
Santa Barbara is a prolific bloomer, take advantage of
the opportunity to cut flowers for the vase. Try also
harvesting several stems to tie with sprigs of rosemary
and hang in the country kitchen.
Barbara and other varieties of Mexican bush sage have
one other magical trait: They create excitement and
interest in the landscape as their spiky flowers create
such a strong contrast to the typical round blossoms.
This time of the year the Mexican bush sage is without
equal in the landscape; I hope you will give it a try.