Sensational salvias

Keith Mundysalvias5

There has been an enormous amount of work been done in recent times by breeders to bring more of these fabulous perennials to the market place with new hybrids and many other species that have not been available before. With their extraordinary diversity of colour and habit over 1800 species with new varieties being added almost all the time, salvias are truly a gardeners’ delight providing rich and interesting rewards for every garden.

This spell binding genus has blues to rival the colours of the ocean and sky as well as rich reds, pinks, yellow and white and with every colour combination of these dominant colours. Their diversity in leaf colour and shape is second to none with leaves that feel like velvet, to long narrow leaves of varying colours. Many of the varieties are used for culinary purposes and have delightful scents that can be used to flavour foods of all kinds.

Most salvia species are adaptable to an extensive range of soil types from clay to open sandy soils. Where soils might be in need of improvement it makes sense to add some organic matter like animal manures or compost. Good drainage however is generally advisable and without it there is a greater risk of the less hardy varieties surviving a long wet winter. In gardens where the soil is wet for long periods it is advisable to slightly raise the planting area to allow better drainage. When preparing soils for salvia refrain from adding excess nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will give lush foliage at the expense of flowers. Soil acidity/alkalinity play no great part in the placement of the plants although many of the species are derived from locations where limestone is dominant.

Nearly all varieties prefer a full sun position with the exception of a few varieties that will grow in and tolerate shade. Some taller varieties have a brittle branching habit and thus should be planted in a location free of strong winds. Many of the lower growing forms are excellent in a seaside garden. Like all perennials, salvias should be pruned on a regular basis to keep the plant in a compact form and to promote several periods of flowering throughout the year. They are generally pest and disease free with aphids and some powdery mildew being a problem in the summer months.

They are a great plant to grow in a container for those who have a difficult location, or to brighten up and area on paving etc. where other plants might have failed. Due to their ability to handle periods of dryness they are an ideal pot plant.

Often overlooked these days are the extensive range of annual forms that are available to brighten up the flower garden where seasonal change is required. Colours of reds, white, blues and purple are available and should be planted at the rear of the garden. Low growing annuals like lobelia, pansies and violas make a great autumn/winter combination and a great companion planting to late autumn and winter flowering salvia. Check out your local nursery for the exciting range of salvia, both perennial and annual, that are now available and brighten up your garden with these rewarding plants. Suppliers of them should have a great range available for planting now.