I love blue flowers in the garden and my current favorite blue flowering perennial is the Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’).
(As a disclaimer, many of these photos show the flowers of this post as more purple than they are in real life. I don’t know if it’s me or the camera. It’s probably me.)
It’s lovely planted with other mid-to-late spring bloomers.
I’ve grown the compact cultivar Mealy Blue Sage for a many years in my gardens.
The true native Mealy Blue Sage is taller and typically a lighter blue than the cultivar Mealy Blue. The cultivar has a darker blue bloom and is compact in form, reaching a height of about eighteen inches. It is a terrific addition to the garden. They’re happiest and most striking when they’re blasted by the hot, Texas sun.
These three have been in this spot for several years and bloom stunningly in spring, with a second, less dramatic bloom cycle in the fall. During the summer, the Mealy Blue Sage tend to bloom less and typically, I’ll cut them back to the ground in July or August. The plants bloom again in the fall but once the temperatures are consistently chilly and the days are short, I prune the spent bloom stalks down to the base rosette for winter. The rosette is evergreen for winter here in zone 8b. This plant is so pretty when planted en masse and is excellent for the xeric garden, especially because of its compact form.
I fell in love with the Henry Duelberg S. farinacea when I started working at Zilker Botanical Gardens a few years ago. I manage the Grow Green Gardens as Zilker Botanical Gardens (ZBG) and these demonstration gardens are designed to showcase low maintenance, native and non-native plants. The City of Austin’s Grow Green program provides a wealth of information for homeowners and businesses about proper landscape plant choices and irrigation techniques to enhance water conservation. Many folks who live in and around Austin are familiar with the free Plant Guide (located in the above Grow Green link, bottom right hand side of page) where some of the more popular landscape plants for Central Texas are profiled. The Henry Duelberg Sage is listed in the Plant Guide, but when I started working at ZBG, there wasn’t one planted in the Green Garden.
So, I fixed that.
This beautiful specimen blooms three-quarters of the year and is a dramatic addition to the entry of the Green Garden. It’s produced loads of seedlings (which will be planted in other gardens at ZBG). This spring, a white blooming hybrid seedling, the Augusta Duelberg, has joined the mix.
I was so entranced with the Henry Duelberg and its performance at ZBG, that I bought several for my gardens.
The Henry Duelberg is larger than the cultivar Mealy Blue Sage and has a graceful, open form. The stems are two to three feet tall and the flower spikes atop the stems are three to four inches long. This gorgeous bloomer is probably a hybrid of the native Mealy Blue Sage (S. farinacea).
The leaves are lance shaped and are located along the length of the stem. The Henry Duelberg will bloom from mid-spring, through early summer. In my gardens, it experienced a dormant period during the hottest part of last summer. I pruned mine to the ground and once the rains began again, the Henrys enjoyed a nice fall bloom cycle. Like the cultivar Mealy Blue, the Henry Duelberg can be pruned to its evergreen winter rosette at the end of the growing season.
The Henry Duelberg at the Green Garden bloomed all of last summer, but it’s more established and receives more water than my personal plants.
Both the Mealy Blue Sage and the Henry Duelberg are favorites of bees and butterflies, as well, though I’ve noticed more pollinators visiting the Henry Duelberg than the Mealy Blue. I planted two, four-inch pots of Henry Duelberg in the fall of 2010 and they have re-seeded, so I have six of these plants now. Thus far, all of mine are blue–none have hybridized to the white ‘Augusta’ form.
As with most plants in the salvia family, the hybrids and cultivars of S. farinacea are generally considered deer resistant.
The Henry Duelberg Sage was discovered growing without care in a Texas cemetery by Texas horticulturist and garden writer, Greg Grant. He named the blue flowering plant after Henry Duelberg and the white variety after Henry’s wife, Augusta. If this plant can survive neglected in an old cemetery, surely it’ll perform beautifully for you in your gardens. So go ahead–plant a Salvia farinacea (‘Henry Duelberg’) in your garden.
Or, if you prefer its little cousin, plant the Mealy Blue Sage.
Or, plant both and enjoy the show!