Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Review: The New Book of Salvias; Sages for Every Garden by Betsy Clebsch

"Clebsch is the Salvia Queen ... If you love salvias, this is the book for you." - Seattle Times
The New Book of Salvias

I was first introduced to Betsy Clebsch at the Perennial Plant Association annual meeting held in Sacramento in 2004. It was obvious by her reception by this professional group of horticulturists, that she was, “The Salvia Expert”. I was there on an academic scholarship. I was presented with a plaque and written up in the newspaper (ahem). What a thrill it was to rub elbows with book editors, nursery owners and cell tissue plant propagators. I thought everyone was an expert, and they probably were.

Fast forward to 2010 ... I have fallen in love with salvias, but the relationship hasn’t always been successful. I’ve killed off a few of my beaus, some more than once (sorry Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'). I’m ready to learn.

The book is divided into 3 sections, opening with Betsy's essay on salvias ... her personal experiences growing salvias in her own gardens and a broad view that will give the motivated student a good practical base of information.
“Gardening has been a thread pulled tight throughout my life, a steady interest that binds the pages that follow. I have made and tended five gardens, the first in Virginia, the second in Texas, the following three in California. In my second California garden the handsome evergreen foliage and striking foliage of many distinctly different salvias led me to grow them. This garden was a country retreat, and several weeks would frequently pass between visits. Plants had to be sturdy and plants had to be able to survive with irregular care and water.
In selecting plants to be described in this book, I have chosen those that are, in my experience, both beautiful and interesting garden subjects. Each salvia I describe can be grown well if you have some practical cultural information, and they will thrive for some time if you nurture them. Obviously, some salvias are not appropriate  for specific gardens because of temperature range, light patterns, or soil conditions.”
The majority of this book (283 pages out of the total 344) is then devoted to describing the characteristics and requirements of each of the 150 featured species, with additional recommendations on companion planting and bits of plant gossip … which hummingbirds frequent this or that plant, which are bee magnets and which are simply, fussy. These descriptions are augmented with color photos and sketches.

The closing charts are wonderfully practical ... the seasonal bloomers, the drought tolerant species, which salvias tolerate shade, those that can handle humidity and of huge interest to this Californian, which are native to my home state and which are water-wise.

This is a book that will be referred to often. As Betsy says, "Salvias have such diverse expectations, this is the book one needs to be successful."

The New Book of Salvias: Sages for Every Garden by Betsy Clebsch (Timber Press; 2nd edition - April 15, 2008)

Some of my favorite salvias are the ones that bloom in late fall. Gotta love a plant that brightens the November garden! Whether you need garden design, coaching, seasonal maintenance or planting, Geno's Garden can help!
Call me at (916) 764-5243, or email

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