Black Country Bugle

Summer salvation


- ALAN Gardening Expert


ONCE upon a time the word salvia conjured up images of Salvia splendens – those scarlet sentinels of plants that were a staple of parks’ department bedding schemes.

Nowadays, we recognise this was the tip of the iceberg and are much more aware of the versatilit­y of this group of plants – many of them slightly tender perennials – which are stalwarts of the sunny summer border.

I plant lots of them in a southfacin­g border, which has the sunbaked conditions and welldraine­d soil they love best.

There they luxuriate for month after month, studding their stems with flowers and only sputtering to a standstill come the first frosts of autumn.

Not all of them are killed outright by frost. Many die down to ground level and, if mulched with an insulating layer of manure, compost or chipped bark, will reemerge in the spring.

That said, it’s a good idea at this time of year to take a few cuttings that can be overwinter­ed as an insurance policy. Make them 2-3in long and dib them in around the edge of a 4in flowerpot filled with gritty compost. A poly bag over the top will seal in moisture and they can be encouraged to root on a windowsill that is not sun-baked.

Buy whatever salvias you can lay your hands on but among my favourites are the red and white ‘Hot Lips’ (18in), Salvia confertifl­ora (4ft), which has fluffy red pipe-cleaner flowers; Salvia microphyll­a (2ft), with carmine flowers, and Salvia uliginosa (5ft), with sky-blue flowers.

You may think they sound too tall, but any of the hybrids are much smaller.

Use the taller varieties towards the back of a border and the shorter ones at the front. Those that grow more than a couple of feet tall will benefit from a few twiggy pea sticks being pushed in among them but it is not a disaster if they topple a bit.

Look for the likes of ‘Royal Bumble’ and varieties of Salvia greggii, which are not so tall-growing. I’d grow whatever you can lay your trowel on.

Planted now, they have at least six weeks of pleasure left in them.

 ?? ?? ‘Royal Bumble’
Salvia uliginosa
‘Royal Bumble’ Salvia uliginosa
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 ?? ?? Salvia microphyll­a
Salvia microphyll­a
 ?? ?? ‘Hot Lips’
‘Hot Lips’
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