Hardy Sages For The Flower Garden by Martin Blow

Most people’s introduction to the wonderful world of salvias is either courtesy of sage, the well-loved herb grown from time immemorial for its culinary and medicinal value or perhaps the bright red bedding plant Salvia splendens traditionally planted with blue lobelia and white alyssum for a truly patriotic display. However, hardy, perennial salvias are becoming increasingly popular as great garden plants for people and bees.  These are not all edible but make a wonderful, long-lasting display in the garden.

There is a vast array of perennial salvias to choose from including many tender types, but this time I’m focusing on the hardy, perennial European types that are great for most gardens.

Of the European species, the best for general garden use are the wood sages and these are varieties of Salvia nemorosa, sylvestris and superba. They grow in dry or moist soils and can be grown in light shade or a sunny spot. They grow well in alkaline (chalky), neutral or mildly acid soils. Add lime annually if planting in extremely acid soils.

They have rough leaves and short spikes of flowers from June through July. If you cut them back hard after flowering, they will normally oblige with more flowers in late August into September. The planting distance for these is about 12-18in / 30-45cm apart.

They come in many shades of blue, pink, violet and white and vary in height from 1ft / 30cm through to 3ft 6in / 105cm.

Snow Hill and Blue Hill (properly called by their German names Schneehügel and Blauhügel) are the shortest ones I grow and are snow-white and sky-blue respectively. Among my favourites are the slightly taller May Night (indigo blue) and East Friesland (blue) and the lovely Rose Queen (pink).

The newer variety Caradonna grows to about 2ft / 60cm tall and has lovely blue flowers and black stems in summer adding to their drama.

One of the tallest is the aptly named Amethyst which grows to 3ft / 90cm or slightly more. This one has a long flowering period from June to September or even October without the need to be cut back at all.

Salvia transylvanica is especially tough and has deep blue flowers in mid-summer.

A firm favourite with the bees is Salvia Purple Rain which has whorls of purple-blue flowers along its 2ft 6in stems throughout the summer.

Of course, there are also many ornamental varieties of the herb sage for growing in a free-draining, sunny spot and you can find types with purple, golden and variegated leaves.

Janet & I organise Plant Hunters’ Fairs, specialist plant fairs at wonderful locations. Please see www.planthuntersfairs.co.uk for a full list of all our 2021 plant fairs. (PLEASE CHECK WEBSITE FOR TICKETING INFO AND ALL THE LATEST UPDATES BEFORE TRAVELLING). Plant Fair Dates For Your Diary 2021: Middleton Hall, Nr Tamworth, B78 2AE on Sunday 27th June and Saturday 21st August, entry to Gardens & Plant Fair only £3. 1620’s House and Garden, Nr Coalville, LE67 2FW on Sunday 1st August, entry to Garden & Plant Fair £1. Southwell Minster, Notts, NG25 0HD on Sunday 8th August, tickets TBC. Weston Park, Shifnal, TF11 8LE on Sunday 12th September, tickets TBC.