Salvia 'Waverly' (Waverly Sage) - A half-hardy shrub that grows initially with a fountain shaped habit to 4 to 5 feet tall with 2 to 3 1/2-inch-long lanceolate leaves held on upright stems but as the plant gets established it spreads to form a wider mass. The leaves are dark green with a shiny rugose texture on the upper surface and dull gray green with prominent veins on the lower surface. The flowers, held on a 2-foot-long curving wand-like purple tinged inflorescence that emerge from near the branch tips, are present year-round in frost free locations. The flowers are in whorls (verticillasters) with white buds held in purple tinged green calyces and, when they open, are nearly an inch long, first a pure white color and darkening to a violet-pink color with age with the upper hooded bi-labiate lips fuzzy and the lower flattened and glabrous. Flowers of all ages open side by side in the inflorescence to display both white and violet-pink flowers together along its entire length.
Plant in full sun and irrigate occasionally to infrequently for best results - establish plants are fairly drought tolerant but sulks a bit if kept entirely dry, but also grows a bit large when over irrigated so best with only occasional irrigation. Though it grows well in the shade it tends to lay over in overly shaded locations. It is root hardy to USDA Zone 8b (low temps 15-20°) and possibly lower if mulched and evergreen in frost free location with foliage nipped at around 30° F and knocked to the ground in a harder frost but sprouting back and growing to full height within a couple months. It responds well to a hard trimming (to near ground) in late winter or later and is a great plant for attracting bees and hummingbirds to the garden. It is also reportedly not attractive to deer.
This plant certainly seems related to Salvia leucantha but we are still searching for confirmation on the origins of this plant. In October 2014 we were contacted by a nursery in northern Italy who told us that this plant is known there as a Salvia hybrid with its parentage as Salvia leucantha crossed with Salvia corrugata. The foliage of Salvia corrugata certainly has a similar texture to that of 'Waverly', so this parentage seems quite possible. We first received this plant in 1994 from the late Mark Bartholomew of Hi-Mark Nursery and for some time the plant was known only as Salvia 'Mark's Mystery White', particularly mysterious since it really doesn’t have pure white flowers! Later we were told that it had the cultivar name 'Waverly' but we have never been able to determine the origin of this name.
In the Summer 2001 issue of Pacific Horticulture Magazine our own California Sage authority, Betsy Clebsch, asks about the origins of this sage in an article titled "Searching for the Roots of Salvia Waverly". Salvia researcher Rich Dufresne had also in the past applied the name Salvia leucantha cv. 'Santa Barbara' to this plant, but retracted it so not to be confused with another compact Mexican sage called at Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara' we grow. Dufresne also noted that for a while on the East coast that this plant was known as 'San Marcos Lavender'. We still do not know who hybridized it and why it was named 'Waverly', so it remains a plant mystery still but since 1996 we have listed it as Salvia 'Waverly' and this name is what others are now growing it as, so it seems widely accepted.
There is also as similar plant called a href="plantdisplay.asp?plant_id= 4239" target="_blank">Salvia 'Phyllis Fancy' that is a taller and has larger leaves not as shiny as those on 'Waverly' and with darker purple calyces and prominent bracts that 'Waverly' does not have. 'Phyllis Fancy' is also reportedly not as cold tolerant as 'Waverly'. We also grow a hybrid between Salvia 'Waverly' and Salvia chiapensis that was a spontaneous seedling hybrid found in Singer/ Songwriter Karla Bonoff's Santa Barbara area garden that we introduced in 2011 as Salvia 'Karla'. This plant is more compact and has fuzzy pale violet-pink flowers with no white in it at all.
Information about Salvia 'Waverly' displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.