Blue Hill SageSalvia x sylvestris ‘Blauhügel'
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The Blue Hill Sage is a beautiful perennial plant with bold spikes of sky-blue flowers that are produced as early as May and continue well into the fall. Standing 18 inches tall the lower half of the stems are covered in aromatic gray-green leaves, while the upper half is a tall spike of blooms, with numerous side spikes as well. The small flowers are produced in abundance, and they are a true blue, light and sparkling, adding unique tones to your garden and making a wonderful garden picture. Grow it in front of shrubs, in a bed with other perennials, on sunny slopes and among gravel and rocks.
Full sun is best for the Blue Hill Sage, but a little partial shade is tolerated, especially in hotter zones. It is winter hardy in zone 4 and enjoys hot, dry places, including sandy and gravel soils. Avoid wet ground and shady areas. Cut back to the ground when flowering is over in fall, and remove flower spikes as they finish, to encourage continuous blooming. Pests and diseases are rare, and deer normally leave this plant alone.
It is hard to underestimate the value of blue in the garden. A ‘universal color’ that blends with all others, it doesn’t fade in the bright sunlight of summer, and pulls together all the colors that you may already have in your garden. If you look at your garden and see a random mix of colors – something we all end up doing – then adding blue through it will turn it from chaos to brilliant design. Many garden ‘blues’ are actually purples, lilacs, or violets, but the Blue Hill Sage really is truly blue. Its upright stems shine out with a bright, light blue like no other. This outstanding perennial is compact and self-supporting, and it thrives in sunny and dry places. Ornamental salvias are relatives of the edible sage, and they also have aromatic foliage, but the similarity ends there. For summer color the Blue Hill Sage can’t be beaten, and you won’t believe the impact adding blue has on your garden – until you plant it.
The Blue Hill Sage is a hardy perennial herbaceous plant. The stems grow from the base new each year, and then die in the fall, to be renewed the next spring. It grows rapidly, reaching between 18 and 24 inches in height by the time it is flowering, with an upright form of many erect stems. It forms a dense clump perhaps 18 inches across at first, growing to almost 3 feet wide in time. The lower 8 to 10 inches of the stems are covered in dark gray-green leaves that grow in alternating pairs. Each leaf is 2 to 3 inches long, broadly oval, tapering to a pointed tip. The leaves are wrinkled and dry-feeling, and when crushed they have a rich aromatic smell.
The flower spikes are 8 to 10 inches long, with a central main spike and many smaller side spikes developing. Each one is densely covered in ½ inch flowers of an intense light blue. These are shaped like irregular trumpets, with a broad lower lip – take the time for a close look and see how fascinating and exquisitely designed these blooms are. Each one grows out of a light-brown dry cup that remains after the flowers fall. Blooming begins in May or June and continues for weeks through summer, even into October if you remove old stems to encourage new ones. The flowers are a constant magnet to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Plant the Blue Hill Sage in the front of larger shrub beds, or in the middle part of smaller ones. A single plant has great effect, and a group is stunning. Grow it with other perennial plants in a traditional border, or mix it with ornamental grasses for a bold modern look. Grow it at the base of a rock garden, or in a gravel bed among boulders with other sun-lovers. Use it in planter boxes and pots for as many weeks of bloom as most annual flowers will give you.
This rugged plant thrives in zone 4 and it’s just as happy in zone 8.
Full sun, or at most an hour or two of shade each day, is the way to get the best from your Blue Hill Sage. It enjoys warmth, and grows well in any well-drained soil, including more sandy soils as well as ordinary garden soils. Avoid wet and shady places. Once established it is drought resistant and tolerates dryness with ease – it even encourages more blooming.
The Blue Hill Sage rarely suffers from pests or diseases and deer normally leave it alone because of its smell. All you need to do is cut it down to the ground when the stems begin to die in fall. It rarely needs any staking or support unless the soil is very rich and always moist. Removing flower spikes when they are mostly finished blooming will encourage more new ones to grow, but even without blooms the old stems are still attractive.
The various ornamental sage plants are mostly hybrids between the woodland sage, Salvia nemorosa, native to central Europe, and its close relative, Salvia amplexicaulis. Today they are correctly called Salvia x sylvestris, but Salvia x superba is an older name still often used. The German nurseryman Ernst Pagels is considered one of the top three perennial breeders of the last century. Among the many valuable varieties of perennials and ornamental grasses he created at his nursery in Leers, Germany, were 14 different Salvia varieties. He won the International Contributor Award from the American Perennial Plant Association and had a profound influence on the use of perennials and grasses in garden design. The Bund deutscher Staudengärtner, Germany’s professional perennial growers association, introduced ‘Blauhügel’, the plant we know as the Blue Hill Sage, and many more plants created by Pagels, during the later decades of the last century.
In 1996 the Blue Hill Sage was granted the Award of Garden Merit by England’s Royal Horticultural Society, and it has the top 3-star rating of the BdS in Germany. Loved by all who grow it, you can join that group if you order now, but we are never able to keep plants of this quality in our stock, so don’t hesitate or they will all be gone.