By Steve Bender
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Photo: Steve Bender

September is usually a terrible month to photograph gardens. All the summer flowers are burned up and the fall flowers have yet to kick in. But Grumpy's garden is kicking butt, thank you very much, thanks to some great new salvias in our Southern Living Plant Collection, available in better garden centers throughout the known universe.

The salvias are called 'Saucy Red' and 'Saucy Wine.' 'Saucy Red' is red and 'Saucy Wine' is purple. I can't wait for the next in the series, 'Saucy Wench,' but I'm told that won't be available until next year. Sad.

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em'Saucy Wench.' Photo: polyvore.com/em

These are big salvias, growing 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, so I needed only six of each to fill out my entire front bed. Blooming is continuous from spring through fall and the hummingbirds and butterflies can't get enough of them. They're said to be hardy to 0 degrees. If that's the case, they'll be perennial for me.

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em'Saucy Red.' Photo: Steve Bender/em
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em'Saucy Wine.' Photo: Steve Bender/em

One of the nice things about these salvias is that they're self-cleaning. (Frankly, this is something everyone should learn to do.) This means no deadheading -- you don't have to cut off spent flower stems to keep them blooming. However, blooming continuously through a long, hot Southern summer does take its toll. Plants start looking tired and a little sparse.

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emPhoto: Steve Bender/em

When that happens, they need cutting back and fertilizing. As is my fashion, I was ruthless.

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emPhoto: Steve Bender/em

A bit of cruelty is necessary to good gardening, I think. In any case, pruning and fertilizing did spur a lot of healthy, new growth. The photo at the top was taken about a month after the mass decapitation you see here.

Fall Is Here! Although the calendar says fall doesn't start for another week, it's already here in my central Alabama garden. It was 55 degrees when I got up this morning. I almost built a bonfire, until I realized you're really supposed to do that at the beach. Well, there's only one thing to do.

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emPhoto: Judy Bender/em

Head for the beach. See you next week. Gardening is just so taxing!