By Susan Morrison of Creative Exteriors Landscape Design
What western garden would be complete without a few salvias? If you’re ready to move beyond the old-fashioned standbys, consider ‘Amistad’ Salvia. With its almost nonstop bloom, brilliant flower color and ease of maintenance, it’s a fantastic addition to any garden.
Fast-growing Amistad sports stunning spikes of deep-purple flowers and inky, blue-black calyxes where the flowers meet the stem. Hardy to USDA Zone 8 and Sunset zones 8, 9, and 14-24, this easy-going salvia blooms year round where winters are mild. Its non-woody form means it’s simple to cut back in spring to remove any frost damage and to keep the plant from becoming too large or leggy.
Although it looks like it belongs in a high maintenance cottage garden, don’t be fooled by Amistad’s soft presence. This is one tough plant! Its deer-resistance makes it a good choice for front yards where grazing is a problem, as its vivid green foliage and lush summer blooms add welcome contrast to woodier deer-proof plants like manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), California lilac (Ceanothus sp.) and deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens).
Like many varieties of salvia, Amistad performs best with moderate water, but once established, it can get by with less. Tolerant of both clay and sandy soil and happy in full sun or part shade, it thrives in a range of garden conditions.
Reaching an ultimate size of 3-5’ tall and 3-4’ wide, it is equally at home in the back of a border or anchoring a container. Amistad’s huge purple flowers and indigo calyxes are a bold contrast choice for foliage plants like burgundy-leafed ‘Design-A-Line’ Cordyline and green and gold leafed ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ Cistus. It pairs equally well with complementary colored blooms in yellow and orange. Plant it next to drought-tolerant lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus) for a maintenance-free combination that will bloom all summer and fall. For a softer, more romantic look, try planting Amistad in front of a pale pink, apple-scented New Dawn climbing rose (Rosa ‘New Dawn’).
Pollinators like butterflies, bees and especially hummingbirds are attracted to Amistad’s nectar-rich blooms. If you are interested in attracting more beneficial insects to your garden, why not create an all-pollinator container? Place Amistad in the middle in the “thriller” role, Paprika yarrow (Achillea ‘Paprika’) as the “filler”, and finish with brightly colored nasturtiums spilling over the side.