Salvias are one of my favourite genus; whilst they’re incredibly varied, most will have that natural, wild look that I tend to favour. They’re valued for their long and late flowering periods. To be honest, it’s impossible to pick a top 5 – but here is a small selection of Salvias you’ll find currently flowering in the borders at Sissinghurst.
Often referred to as S. turkestanica, I have mentioned this sage before in a Herb Garden blog, which is one of its locations – this year you can also find it in the Rose Garden. Their abundant flowers create a beautiful spray of subtle lilac-pink and white shades. It’s interest lasts for weeks as whilst their colours fade, they remain enchanting. I love their large, deeply textured leaves too. This is a biennial salvia which is best in full sun. It’s easy to grow from seed, so in theory you can have an everlasting supply for free.
The obvious difference between S. involucrata ‘Bethellii’ and the species (S. involucrata) is the wonderfully contrasting purple stems. This is a large, imposing Salvia, growing up to 1.5 metres in ideal conditions. It tends to flop a bit if not given some support, either from neighbouring, sturdier plants or a few hazel sticks at its base. As a perennial originating from Mexico, it’s not completely hardy in the UK, so we treat ours as annuals, starting them off in the greenhouse – periods of anything below -5°c. will probably see it off. It’s best in a sheltered position in full sun or partial shade. You can take softwood cuttings at any time, as long as there’s suitable fresh growth available. If you’re lucky enough to live in warmer climes, in 5 years it will get to be a metre wide and even more bushy than ours.
This is a useful, robust, hardy and clump-forming perennial Salvia, with vivid purple flower and strong fragrance in the leaves. It prefers full sun but can survive an exposed position and light partial shade . We cut ours right down to the ground in Winter and if necessary divide them in Spring. Ever popular with garden designers, they look great with grasses and offer impact, toughness and relative longevity – being generally disease free.
Salvia ‘Phyllis’s Fancy’ is another tall plant and should reach 1.5 to 2 meters in ideal conditions. The upper calyx is an inky blue to deep purple, which contrasts beautifully with the white petals. Viewed up close the petals appear to have a delightfully soft fuzzy quality. This plant was a chance discovery at the University of California, Santa Cruz Arboretum and its parentage is not entirely certain – however, it is certainly a hybrid of S. leucantha – another superb species plant. Once again, we treat ours as annuals.
This large, majestic plant is aptly named. The long, deep purple, tubular flowers have a velvet texture and are held in even darker calyces in whorls along an eight to ten-inch long spike in late Summer to Autumn. Another salvia originating from Mexico, it grows best in full sun and is treated as an annual here.