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Yoke's Salvia blog Chapter 6

Salvia ‘Penny’s Smile’

This is a beautiful Salvia found by my dear friend and Salvia collector, Robin Middleton. See here 

It has proved to be a very popular one, now sold by several nurserymen in Britain!

It came from seed found on the cross Salvia ‘Silkes Dream’ see here 

This was the most vigorous seedling, which Robin grew on and gave it the name I suggested to him in honour of my dear friend Penny, who was a beautiful girl and left this world far too young.

She really loved the salvias of which I planted several in her late gardens. And she particularly loved this colour; so a more apt tribute couldn’t be found! To my surprise it has survived many cold winters here in the Midlands. But some shelter would be recommended.

Penny’s Smile’ is a bushy, upright plant to 1.2m high, evergreen if not cut back by frost, with small, aromatic, pale to mid-green leaves. It has large, showy individual flowers, similar size as one of its known parent, ‘Silkes Dream’ and the inflorescences are also well above the foliage and with many flowers for a long flowering season!

Yoke’s Magic Salvia’s Nursery is growing and Wollerton Old Hall visit!


My ‘hot’ bench: complete with new sand and cloche windows!

Thought I’d do an update of the progress we are making with building up my collection of Salvias since a few weeks ago.

Our first few salvias came from Wollerton Old Hall, near Market Drayton in Shropshire. As well as a magnificent garden to visit in the season, they also have a nursery, propagating and selling specialist plants from their garden with approx 90 different varieties of salvias as well as a good number of Iris, Phlox and Cupheas.

I met up with their new Head Gardener, Phillip Smith, who very kindly had been propagating several salvias especially for me to start off my new collection.

Last year I’d discovered that to my great relief they still had most of the ‘Rodbaston-serie salvias’, as I had thought most of those would have been extinct!

It is really nice to know other gardens also value those salvias.

This is also a good lesson for other salvia collectors and enthusiasts: to share your precious plants as you never know when you will need them again!

Not yet with salvias but the ‘Conservation Scheme’ within the Hardy Plant Society in the U.K. conserves worthy garden plants by enthusiastic members, especially if there are not many of the original plants left!


The famous ‘Hot Borders’ at Wollerton Old Hall on a sunny August afternoon with just some of the cooling blue of Salvia patens ‘Guanjuato’

Wollerton has a good collection of tender as well as hardy perennials and even has their own Salvia called ‘Wollerton White’  which is a white flowering form found on a plant of (pink) flowered ‘Cerro Potosi’. As there are not many pure white flowering salvias this was a good find of former Head Gardener, Andrew Humphries.

They also have some good plants growing in the garden of Salvia ‘Wendy’s Surprise’


Salvia ‘Wendy’s Surprise’, a vigorous variety named by me after an ex student of Rodbaston!

and ‘Penny’s Smile’, for which I was responsible for naming and are lovely, vigorous salvias good for a prime spot or amongst tall flowering asters and dahlias as here at Wollerton.


Salvia ‘Penny’s Smile’ amongst other late flowering perennials such as asters

Spend a nice few hours at Wollerton, talking salvias mainly whilst Phil showed us around the still very dormant garden and large south facing salvia border. This border is perfectly situated at the entrance of Wollerton.


One of the many beautiful salvias grown at Wollerton called Salvia haenkei ‘Prawn Chorus’ see for more info here

Phil was saying that he did thin out several trees in this border but that most of the salvias thrive here, even with the challenging hot weather we did have last summer.

The salvias have maintained most of their leaves and this is what they do in most years except in a very harsh winter. It is difficult to group salvias as these ‘shrubby ones’ are not strictly herbaceous nor are they real shrubs. A term called half-shrubs is probably appropriate.

As the salvias usually grow back vigorously from the base each year they can be cut back hard in spring although I would recommend a less harsh approach and pruning half way to some strong last year’s growth above a node. A good mulch after pruning is also beneficial to improve the soil, feed the plant as well as preserve the moisture to support growth in the growing season.

Hopefully not much watering would be needed again only when the weather gets exceptionally dry again or/and the soil is poor. Some of the shrubby salvias may still grow and flower in poor soil although they will perform much better with good soil of course!

Phil and I also discussed several ways of increasing the general health of the salvias, especially if you grow them in pots. He told me about the idea from Chris Beardshaw, who recommended to top dress with worm-cast which is the ‘poo’ of the special worms found in a wormery.

As well as digesting the kitchen waste in those wormeries their poo provides a lot of major and minor or trace elements which supports healthy growth when confined in a pot. The worms also excrete a so called worm tea which can be given diluted as a liquid fertiliser as well.

Phil found that he had problems with vine weevil in the previous year as well as aphids and a discolouring in the younger leaves, which is still a bit of a mystery what causes this. I told him about the idea of mulching around the base of the potted plants with chippings or grit. As well as keeping the compost better protected from weevils and drying out it also reflects back solar light, especially when using white or light coloured grit.

At Rodbaston College when we had the Mexican dessert and Californian salvias this gave us good results in them flowering much better for us!

Wollerton Old Hall is usually open to visit from Easter, April but for more information see this link!


The first new baby plants acquired from Wollerton on our new propagation bench!
Yoke van der Meer Posted by Yoke van der Meer

Yoke started her Yoke’s Magic Gardening business in April 2012. She has also recently (January, 2019) started growing a very colourful plant called the Salvia again, of which she used to have a National Collection at former Rodbaston College in Staffordshire.

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