I had my doubts when I saw Salvia pachyphylla 'Mulberry Flambe' advertised in the High Country Gardens catalog. First of all, there's the name, like nails on a chalkboard. But I had grown the species for years and have been impressed by the plant just as it is. It has evergreen silvery leaves. It grows densely. It is extremely drought tolerant, growing in the no-irrigation part of the garden. The bracts are impressive (in some plants they are as big as grapefruits) and the blue flowers poking out are charming. The leaves have a pungent fragrance that is not only pleasant, but rabbit repellant.
Okay, so the drought tolerance is to the point where the plant rots easily, and establishing the plant can be tricky: too much water and it rots, too little water and it turns crispy. The pungent fragrance can be too much of a good thing, as it is impossible to wash off the hands, even with soap. The bracts can turn brown even while the blue flowers keep coming, and the brown bracts can be a pain to deadhead.
The flowers are impressive in their quantity, if not their size, which is actually smaller than others that I have grown. The bracts do color up sooner in comparison. In truth, the leaves are more yellow than I would like, and much more yellow than the seed grown plants.
But this is what the other one I planted looks like, planted at the same time. It's not a fair comparison, however, since in my other garden, I would say the seed-grown species plant I had was actually more impressive than 'Mulberry Flambe', and grew just as fast. The bract heads (flower heads?) were four times the size and the leaves consistently silvery.
And there's something to be said about keeping good-looking leaves (and yes, I did choose a plant whose leaves would match the color of the utility box). Overall, 'Mulberry Flambe' is worth growing, and worth seeking out if you need a group of identical plants. I just wish I knew how to grow S. pachyphylla from cuttings, so that I could grow a bunch of seedlings and select my favorite.