On Gardening: Unplugged So Blue salvia is picture-perfection for any style of garden

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Unplugged So Blue salvia debuts in 2020 having already won 25 awards. - Chris Brown Photography/Proven Winners/TNS

One of The Garden Guy’s favorite new plants making its debut in 2020 has name so unusual I had to look up the definition and gift it a little thought. It is called Unplugged. Did you know we have a National Day of Unplugging?

You can probably guess what that might mean. Getting away from all things digital for a day, going natural, nourishing your mind and spirit. Certainly, when you are out and among flowers, butterflies and nature you have a transformation. That is why we garden.

Is that why one of the hottest new salvias in the garden center in 2020 is called Unplugged So Blue? The name is absolutely as trendy as it gets. But this salvia with a trendy name is so much more.

First it is a Salvia farinacea with its DNA coming from Texas, New Mexico and south of the border. This speaks volume to its tough and rugged nature. Its history in the world of gardening is legendary with countless varieties having won awards over the years, including those that have received the coveted All-American Selections honor.

This most loved salvia in the garden with the not so marketable common name ‘mealy cup sage’ has a new variety in town called Unplugged So Blue coming from Proven Winners. Though it is making its debut in 2020, it has already won 25 awards in trials.

Last year I saw it in trials with dozens of other varieties which I have to admit is a sight to behold. Afterall spiky flowers create excitement on the garden so standing alongside a thousand spikes of blue is exhilarating to say the least.

It was pretty easy to see that Unplugged So Blue was indeed special with multiple spikes rising up in the air and looking as if they were doing their part to promote this year’s Pantone Color of the Year ‘Classic Blue.’

Unplugged So Blue will reach 24 inches tall with a spread of 16 inches. Its attributes are many -- it blooms all summer, attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and is not on the deer menu. It is the quintessential cottage garden flower, yet is picturesque in containers and of course drop dead gorgeous in the backyard habitat.

Most will grow it as an annual, yet in zones 8 and warmer there is a wonderful chance it will become a perennial. The key here is to make sure you soil drains freely.

To maximize your blooming potential, select a site in full sun. If you are working with tight clay, increase your fertility by incorporating 3 to 4 inches of organic matter like compost peat or humus. These plants will reach from 18 to 36 inches in height, depending on variety and length of growing season. Their spread dictates spacing 12 to 15 inches apart.

Unplugged So Blue has the potential of putting on a dazzling show until frost arrives if the old flowers are kept removed. In late summer they can be cut back, which will enhance the bushiness and allow them to put on a show for fall.

To create the most attention-grabbing display in your landscape, choose their opposite or complementary color orange or yellow. These play off each other in a resounding marriage of excitement. Rudbeckias, Luscious lantanas and the new Suncredible Yellow bush sunflower all make dazzling partners.

Another choice color to use is hot pink such as Karalee Petite Pink gaura or Sunstar Pink pentas. You can also combine them with Oso Easy landscape roses like Double Pink or Italian Ice, which would guarantee bringing out the cameras.

Blue is not only a treasured color in the garden, it is a celebrated color in 2020, and Unplugged So Blue salvia is the perfect choice for your garden party.

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(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

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©2020 Norman Winter

Unplugged So Blue attracts a host of pollinators from bees to hummingbirds and butterflies like this Monarch. - Norman Winter/TNS/TNS
Unplugged So Blue salvia looks riveting when grown with the complementary colors of yellow or orange. - Norman Winter/TNS/TNS