Hum­ble herb adds splash of hardy help

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - HOME - Tino Carnevale

SAGE is a name gen­er­ally only as­so­ci­ated with the plant Salvia of­fic­i­nalis, that stal­wart of the kitchen. This com­mon name, how­ever, can be used for more than 900 species of plants that make up the largest group in the Lami­aceae or mint fam­ily.

Salvias can be an­nu­als, bi­en­ni­als or peren­ni­als; they come in a mul­ti­tude of forms, sizes and colours and they are as hard as a coffi n nail.

They don’t mind the wet months and, dur­ing dry pe­ri­ods, they will fl our­ish and con­tinue to fl ower hap­pily when other plants have turned to sticks.

These plants do pre­fer a fer­tile, well- drained soil but I have seen them thrive in heavy clay and gut­less sands.

They are as use­ful in the gar­den as duct tape is in life.

An­nual forms like Bon­fire make a ver­mil­ion sea when mass planted, larger forms are very ef­fec­tive screen­ing plants and forms like Salvia Me­gan’s Magic make su­perb bor­der plants. Many species have fresh- smelling fo­liage and they put on an im­pres­sive fl oral dis­play that seems to last all year – and with some species, such as Waverly, ac­tu­ally does.

With the right se­lec­tion of a few dif­fer­ent species your gar­den will al­ways have colour.

Many species of salvias tend to wind down over the win­ter as they stop putting on new fl ow­ers and their growth is slowed. When this hap­pens it is best to cut them back.

They are plants that gen­er­ally re­spond well to a prune as it will de­con­gest the plant, pro­mote new healthy growth and can help to ini­ti­ate a fresh fl ush of fl ow­ers.

Some of the larger va­ri­eties just need a tidy up and the spent fl ow­ers re­moved but oth­ers, such as Salvia leu­can­thum, I cut al­most to the ground.

Some species such as the fruit- scented sage Salvia dorisiana will thrive and fl ower well through the win­ter and will slow down and be cut back at the end of spring.

I have liked ev­ery form of salvia I have en­coun­tered, but I think my favourite is In­digo Spires.

It reaches around 1.5m high with about the same width.

They don’t mind the wet months and, dur­ing dry pe­ri­ods, they will flour­ish and con­tinue to flower hap­pily when other plants have turned to sticks

It can fl ower from spring through sum­mer and well into au­tumn and, as the name sug­gests, it pro­duces bril­liant blue up­right spike fl ow­ers.

They do not re­quire a lot of fer­tiliser al­though a cou­ple of hand­fuls of a com­plete or­ganic fer­tiliser twice a year will en­sure your plant stays healthy.

It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter when you do this but I like to time feeds to co­in­cide with pe­ri­ods of growth and flushes of flow­ers in spring and au­tumn.

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