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Cornucopia - Salvias for late colour

Salvias for late colour
Ron Davies

Having visited many gardens this year (2009) I am surprised by the absence of salvias in most of them. Salvias come in so many shapes and sizes and colours that I am sure a place could be found for one or two in most gardens. I am writing this on 10th November: where salvias are planted the borders are a blaze of colour. I list below a few of the many varieties grown at Winderwath.

Salvia argentea
Portugal to Bulgaria, hardy to -12°C. A plant for a hot dry site with handsome silver leaves coated with fine silky hairs: it is a striking plant. It has a few white candelabra type flowers but the foliage is the star here.

Salvia blepharophylla
Mexico, hardy to -6°C. One of my personal favourites. This grows to about fifteen inches high, has glossy green leaves with striking magenta flowers.

Salvia confertiflora
Texas and Mexico, half hardy. This is without doubt one of the finest salvias in cultivation, an erect bold plant up to three feet tall with dark green leaves and flower spikes nearly two feet in length which have red stems and orange flowers.

Salvia concolor
This one is a bit of a mystery. I have forgotten from whence it came and I cannot find it in any book I possess. It grows an amazing ten to twelve feet in any season (yes! I did say feet!) yet it is rigid and self supporting with spikes of deep blue flowers up to eighteen inches in length. We had a coach party around the garden in late October and they left with carrier bags full of cuttings of this, and Salvia confertiflora. It is totally hardy at Winderwath.

Salvia elegans 'Honey Melon' Pineapple sage
Mexico -1°C. Two feet tall with mid-green leaves and a multitude of scarlet flowers. With the pineapple aroma of its leaves it makes a charming colourful plant that flowers and flowers.

Salvia gesneriiflora
Mexico at altitude -6°C. A super plant with showy orange red flowers and mid-green leaves.

Salvia greggii
Texas and Mexico -6°C. Erect shrubby perennial, which has small red flowers. A good reliable repeat flowerer to use at the front of a border.

Salvia guaranitica 'Blue Enigma'
South America -12°C. This was the plant that endeared me to the genus. Very easy to grow. It has fairly tall deep blue flowers and will grow anywhere, it’s as tough as old boots!

Salvia hians
Himalayas -18°C. A hardy herbaceous perennial which forms a mound about a foot high with long spikes of dusky blue flowers in mid summer. This is perhaps not the most showy and needs a very large border to justify growing it.

Salvia involucrata
Mexico -6°C. I first saw this growing over twenty years ago in South Wales and I just had to buy it. It grows to about four feet tall with beetroot red flowers. There is a similar S.i. 'Bethellii', both or either worth keeping.

Salvia leucantha
Performs as a half hardy at Winderwath but one of the showiest with whitish grey leaves on a three feet high plant and lovely purple or violet flowers. A must.

Salvia lycioides
Texas and Mexico -12°C. This grows on the rock garden, a delicate looking but tough plant with very fine leaves and small but showy deep blue flowers.

Salvia nubicola
Asia -18°C. Tall erect plant smothered with yellow flowers with brown spotting on the upper lip. Very sticky. Although I am sure a botanist would, I cannot separate it from Salvia glutinosa (for us mere mortals one or t’other will do!).

Salvia przewalskii
China -12°C. Low growing hardy perennial with lax spikes of purple flowers. Looks better than it sounds.

Salvia subrotunda
This is another mystery plant. I know nothing about it: I got the seed from the HPS seed exchange. It grows to about a foot in height with ten-inch flower spikes of red flowers. Grown in a group it looks great.

These are just a few of the many salvias that we grow at Winderwath. Nearly all are propagated from cuttings taken in late August to September, then grown on and planted out flowering size. If the variety sets seed we use these as they germinate readily and easily. More and more of the supposedly tender varieties are now over-wintering at Winderwath.

First published in the Cumbria Group Newsletter, Spring 2010
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 28.
© Copyright for this article: Ron Davies

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2011. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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