Wednesday 26 July 2017

In bloom this week: scented Salvia

Sage is not just for cooking

Salvia
Salvia

Leonie Cornelius

You really know it's summer when you see the elegant tall spires of salvia start to blossom in the border. These butterfly- and bee-friendly plants are part of the lamiaceae family which is native to the Mediterranean region. Most people will probably recognise the plant's common name, sage, as a culinary herb. That variety, which goes so well with fish dishes, is just one of hundreds of types of sage plants.

The name sage comes from the Latin 'severe' which means 'to save', and has been used since ancient times for warding off evil, cleansing and much more.

My own first encounter with this gorgeous, flowering herb was during a year that my parents and I spent living on the small island of Ithaka in Greece. On the dry rocky slopes of the hills, this herb had its ideal conditions and spread wildly over the landscape - its woody scent so strong in the sunshine.

The plants I have chosen for this week are the ornamental species of sage which are commonly referred to as salvias. These fully hardy perennials look very similar to the original sage but give an even more impressive display of colour. These plants like well-draining soil and do best in full sun. They are great choices for a window box. I planted two varieties sourced at homeland.ie in one large container. The small pinks of the Sensation Rose (salvia nemerosa) building a lower layer of dusty pink and bleeding up in stages to the elegant tall spires of the Blue Queen (salvia x superba).

The Sensation Rose variety is a very pretty dwarf version of salvia, with compact, basal branches that bear numerous spires of beautiful dusty pink.

It flowers from June to October and is very tidy in its growing habit with its eventual size no more than 35cm. The Blue Queen is very different in stature and colour. Its intense violet blue spikes flower from early to late summer, and can grow up to 90cm high. They do well in containers, and as long as the plant has well-draining but humus-rich soil, it will give an impressive display of colour in any garden.

For both salvias, I would recommend to remove any flower heads as soon as they fade, and water and feed regularly. This will keep the flowers coming all summer long and make this one of the most rewarding plants in the garden.

Irish Independent

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