Bee-li­cious her­bal flow­ers

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Growing -

Late sum­mer and early au­tumn is when I re­mem­ber why I grow salvias. They don’t mind the cool­ing tem­per­a­tures and lower light lev­els. Many va­ri­eties con­tinue to flower in my North Can­ter­bury gar­den un­til mid-au­tumn or when hit by frost.

The salvia fam­ily

Sage ( Salvia of­fic­i­nalis) is a pop­u­lar herb, but un­der-rated as an or­na­men­tal flower. It is a wor­thy plant in any gar­den, even if you don’t eat it, with its pur­plish-blue, beeat­tract­ing flow­ers, and peb­ble-grey fo­liage.

For year-round colour, there is the char­treuse-yel­low golden sage ( S.

of­fic­i­nalis Aurea), and the dusky, plumpur­ple sage ( S. of­fic­i­nalis pur­purea).

But there is much more to salvias, the largest genus in the mint fam­ily, with roughly 900 species. Most or­na­men­tal va­ri­eties flower steadily through sum­mer into au­tumn. They are rel­a­tively drought and heat-tol­er­ant and in­clude bril­liant­ly­coloured flow­ers, from some of the truest blues and vi­brant pur­ples, to stun­ning reds, or­anges and hot pinks.

I like to have the pur­ple-blue salvias along­side other blue-flow­ered peren­ni­als, mixed with pas­tel colours or crisp whites. For a hot­ter colour scheme, you could con­trast them with bright yel­lows and gold.

Some of the most spec­tac­u­lar salvias come from Mex­ico, Cen­tral and South Amer­ica: S. guar­an­ti­cas, S. in­volu­crata, S. leu­can­tha, S. Pur­ple Majesty, and S. Indigo Spires. If you’re in a cold area, you may lose them to frost, but they are so lovely, it’s worth try­ing.

Among the longest flow­er­ers, in a mul­ti­tude of colours, are cul­ti­vars of the twiggy shrub group, S. greggi which bloom from spring to au­tumn.

Many salvias have fra­grant and/or strik­ing fo­liage. The beau­ti­fully-tex­tured

S. ar­gen­tea has sil­ver leaves. The au­tum­n­flow­er­ing pineap­ple sage ( S. el­e­gans) has a sweet pineap­ple scent.

Salvia flow­ers are rich in nec­tar, at­tract­ing and feed­ing bees and ben­e­fi­cial in­sects.

The won­der honey plant

Bees adore anise hys­sop ( Agas­tache foenicu­lum). I find them hardy and trou­ble­free plants.

The showy, whorled flow­ers ap­pear with­out fuss, in mid-to-late sum­mer. They are pro­lific and long-flow­er­ing, in a great range of pas­tel shades, from white, mauve- Berg­amot. blue, and red­dish-pink to salmon coral.

The flow­ers are ed­i­ble, and at­trac­tive if you put them in a vase. Cut­ting flow­ers can pro­long flow­er­ing into au­tumn.

Anise hys­sop va­ri­eties tol­er­ate drought. My plants do well, even when out of the sprin­kler’s range.

The plants form rounded bushes, and their anise-scented leaves seem to re­pel pests. Best of all, they don’t need di­vid­ing.

Bee balm

Berg­amot ( Monarda didyma, M. fis­tu­losa) are show-offs, and bees love their shaggy, tubu­lar flow­ers. The flow­ers come in in­tense colours, usu­ally in mid-to-late sum­mer. They can be­gin ear­lier in north­ern gar­dens and start and fin­ish later in cooler ar­eas.

Two of Berg­amot. my favourite va­ri­eties are Gar­den­view Scar­let and Ja­cob Cline.

These rhi­zoma­tous peren­ni­als will spread; give them space to romp. The shal­low roots need a moist, welldrained soil.

Joe Pye weed

Eu­pa­to­rium sp is a ro­bust, tall plant that is per­fect for the back of a gar­den bed.

It makes an im­pres­sive sight when it flow­ers in late sum­mer to mid-au­tumn.

Bees love the huge, domed heads of frothy, dusky-pink flow­ers. The at­trac­tive, buff-coloured seed heads that fol­low are also a great fea­ture.

Although these plants are a bit greedy about space, I have never con­vinced my­self to take ours out. The strong, ver­ti­cal stems add ar­chi­tec­tural in­ter­est, they flower when other peren­ni­als are wan­ing, and look great teamed with au­tumn-flow­er­ing sun­flow­ers.

The species is tall, up to 3.5m. If you want some­thing more com­pact, these va­ri­eties are shorter: • Gate­way, bur­gundy stems, 1.5-1.8m; • Lit­tle Joe, 1.2-1.5m • Baby Joe, 90cm-1.2m

Joe Pye likes moist, fer­tile soils and is lovely near the wa­ter’s edge, but I have found it a ro­bust peren­nial, tol­er­at­ing dry pe­ri­ods and con­sid­er­able ne­glect.

The un­der­cover herb

You might know pur­ple cone­flower ( Echi­nacea pur­purea) as a herb, but it’s also a stun­ning, long-flow­er­ing, sum­mer peren­nial.

The bright, lu­mi­nes­cent flow­ers are prob­a­bly the most pho­tographed plant in my gar­den.

Pink is the most com­mon colour, but plants can throw ev­ery colour ex­cept true pur­ples and blues. I love the pas­tel whites, and dra­matic reds, corals and or­ange.

Echi­nacea looks great with all kinds of com­pan­ion plants. You can com­bine them with mounded plants, dra­matic spiky leaves, or plumed blooms. The bold flow­ers will be the stars of a gar­den bed of fo­liage plants, grasses or smaller daisies.

After flow­er­ing, the plants form in­ter­est­ing seed heads, which I usu­ally leave on. They oc­ca­sion­ally self-seed in my gar­den, bring­ing me un­ex­pected plea­sure by pop­ping up in gaps.


Anise hys­sop.

Joy Pye weed.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.