Humble herb adds splash of hardy help
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.