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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Salvia, Henry Duelberg
Greg Grant

Each year, Texas A&M promotes their Texas Superstar selections for the year. Texas Superstar plants are selected by CEMAP (the Coordinated Educational and Marketing Assistance Program) after several years of successful trialing throughout the state. CEMAP makes a concerted effort to introduce new products to the Texas nursery industry that make gardening easier and more environmentally sound for the gardening masses in the state.

One of this year's promotions, the Duelberg sage (Salvia 'Henry Duelberg') happens to be a plant that I found and introduced to the Texas nursery trade. I'm a decent plant breeder but my forte seems to be stumbling across improved plants in unlikely places. For instance, the Gold Star esperanza came from a yard in an impoverished neighborhood in San Antonio. The Marie Daly rose was a sport in my mom's backyard in the Pineywoods of East Texas. And the VIP petunia came from a flower bed in front of a pay toilet in Stuttgart, Germany!

I actually prefer to look for plants growing in less than average conditions as it helps insure that the general public can grow them without any special input. Although most gardeners (even the bad ones) generally provide at least the bare minimum of needs for their plants I would prefer to find them growing with NO horticultural help whatsoever. I want to know if they can survive with no water, no fertilizer, no weeding, no grooming, and no pesticides. When I hear a plant touted as needing dividing every three years, or needing periodic fungicide treatments to thrive, I immediately strike them from my list. Sure, we all have the option of installing sprinkler systems, double digging our beds, and spraying insecticides and fungicides every ten days, but I for one "ain't gonna do it". First of all, it doesn't make sense from a health or labor stand point. Plus, after two back surgeries, I'm looking for plants that can do some of their own work for a change.

The free ride is over! That's why I prefer looking in poor neighborhoods, country gardens, and along Texas highways. These folks aren't known for spoiling and pampering their plants. But it's always hard to tell. Some folks like to sneak around at night (especially during hot Texas summers), with a horticultural IV, reviving all their marginally adapted plants. THAT'S why my favorite place of all to look for Texas tough plants is in rural cemeteries (at least those that haven't banned living plants like some brain dead places have). You KNOW these residents aren't spoiling their plants (short of a little extra bone meal!).
I've always said, "if the dead can grow it, you can too". And it's true. In case you haven't guessed it by now, the Duelberg sage came from a rural, Central Texas cemetery. Not just any cemetery mind you, but one with no irrigation. I first spotted it during a hot, dry, Texas summer on my way to Dr. Welch's annual Oktober Gartenfest in Winedale. It didn't look great, but it WAS alive, which was more than could be said for most of the other "real" plants planted there. It had also been recently cut to the ground with a "weed whacker" so there weren't even any blooms on it when I was there. I was on a quest at the time to find native populations of Salvia farinacea. Salvia farinacea (mealy cup sage/blue salvia) is popular throughout the world, primarily as an annual bedding plant. Unfortunately, like most of our global bedding plants, in a quest for smaller plants with darker flowers, European breeders have bred most of the toughness and vigor out of them. In the wild, the plants are about three feet tall with gray- green leaves and light to medium blue flowers.

Typical nursery plants are about a foot tall with dark purple-blue flowers. Being dwarf isn't always better though. In most of the bedding plant trials I've planted and evaluated, the dwarf forms of plants are inferior in performance to their larger sized parents. It only makes sense. After all, the reason they are dwarf is that they don't grow! If they actually GREW, they wouldn't be dwarf any more, right? Ever since the Victorian "bedding out" period, breeders think all bedding plants have to be less than a foot tall. This desire actually sprang from the practice of planting floral carpets to be viewed from upper story castle windows. Well guess what? My "castle" has no upper stories!

Plants bred to look like blueberry muffins sitting in the landscape might work fine during a mild, moist Dijon summer but unfortunately often don't cut the hot mustard here in Tejas. In order to survive hot Texas summers, which may be desert dry with periodic interruptions of flash flooding, plants BETTER be vigorous. Toss in foot traffic, cars, armadillos, grandchildren, inebriated neighbors, etc. and being dwarf doesn't look like such a blessing. If our plants aren't growing and constantly repairing damage, they are often doomed. I would much rather trim an overly vigorous plant back than to be forced to replace a dead "Miss Manners".
'Henry Duelberg' salvia is about three feet tall with fairly dark blue flowers, darker than typical native populations of Salvia farinacea. As a matter of fact, the leaves are wider, more serrated, and not as gray as native mealy cup sage either. This has lead to the speculation by some that it is of hybrid origin. I can't imagine for the life of me what other species would be involved. Although the cemetery where it was growing was a bit east for Saliva farinacea, there where no other salvias in the cemetery, or even native in the area. I'm not sure now long they had been growing there but it seemed to be for some time. The plants had reseeded quite prolifically in the grass and even in the cracks of the concrete curbing. Henry Duelberg died in 1935 and his wife Augusta in 1903. I have this theory that Mr. Henry was a botanical sort and was dabbling in salvia breeding (you know "the father of Texas botany", Ferdinand Lindheimer, was German too). When Mr. Duelberg died, I supposed they planted his handy work on his grave. Long live Henry! Just in case I'm wrong, I named a white flowered seedling 'Augusta Duelberg' from the same grave for his wife. Who knows, SHE may have been the horticultural wonder woman. Despite the origins of these salvias I do know one thing. Unlike other German salvias on the market, Henry Duelberg lives!

For more information on CEMAP and Texas Superstars, go to For images of 'Henry Duelberg' salvia, see:


Greg Grant is a horticulturist at the Stephen F. Austin Pineywoods
Native Plant Center in Nacogdoches, Texas.