Gardeners are putting their borders to bed for the winter and scheming about what new plants to buy next year, and the plants that are on the top of my To-Get List are annual Salvias, of which there are dozens of great ones to choose from. They're gorgeous, long-flowering, both drought- and heat-tolerant AND they attract pollinators and hummingbirds like no other plant. That's according to popular garden writer and blogger Margaret Roach in her weekly podcast and on her blog, Away to Garden. She recommends these in particular:
Best Hummingbird Magnets
Pineapple Sage, (Salvia elegans) like the one in the photo right, got that name because their crushed leaves smell distinctively like pineapples. They're hardy to Zone 8 (no colder than 10 degrees) so they'll winter over here if it's a mild one; otherwise they need to be started again in the spring. The variety 'Aurea' shown here (sometimes called 'Golden Delicious') is a particular asset in the garden because of its chartreuse foliage. It stands about 3-4' tall.
Wine sage (Salvia vanhouttii) is hardy to Zone 9 and can be grown from seed, though Roach says she buys hers as plants from her local independent garden center (in New York where she gardens). They grow to a 4 x 4-foot shrub and bloom from spring to frost. Gotta love that.
Another red-blooming Salvia that Roach recommends is Texas Sage, also known as Scarlet Sage (S. coccinea), especially the variety 'Lady in Red'. It's hardy only to Zone 9 but usually comes back the next season from seed - so don't clean up the garden too early, before its seeds disperse. Cutting it back in mid-summer will produce a shorter and fuller shrub later in the season.
Above and in the next two photos are Salvias in all their blooming glory in late September at the National Arboretum, none of which I can identify. I do believe they're also annuals - or more exactly, perennials that aren't hardy to our region. But after gardening with mainly shrubs and perennials all these decades, I'm finally appreciating the great contributions that annuals can make in not just pots on my front porch, but in the borders themselves. Flowers galore all season long, and reseeding year after year? I'm there.
I still love the hardier, perennial Salvias, though, and I praised them here for their drought tolerance. I posted lots of photos on that link but here's one more - of the effective use of just a few perennial Salvias and a few annuals beautifying a tiny city front yard.