SALVIA

There are salvias for herbaceous borders, annuals for bedding and shrubby kinds for greenhouse display. Salvia officinalis is the well-known herb sage . Among the border kinds, Salvia superba (virgata nemerosa) is one of the easiest of all hardy perennials. It is an erect grower to about 3 ft. with many branching spikes of violet-purple flowers from June to September. Liibeck is a shorter edition of this species, growing to about 2 ft. Tolerates very dry soil and is easily increased by division in spring. S. uliginosa which reaches 3 — 4 ft. is too seldom seen. It bears rather small vivid azure-blue flowers in late summer or early autumn, continuing into November. Prefers light, rich, well-drained soil but is inclined to die out if the ground is too dry. Very late starting into growth in spring and may not ‘shoot’ until late April or early May, when division can be undertaken. It is a good plan to give a protective covering of bracken etc. in winter. S. dichroa has mauve-blue and white flowers in July and August, but is not long-lived and is best treated as a biennial, sowing in late spring or early summer. Height about 3 ft. S. haematodes is also short-lived and is easily raised from a June sowing. The silvery lilac-blue flowers appear from June onwards again on a 3 ft. plant. S. sclarea turkestanica or clary has woolly leaves and pinky-white flowers from June to September on a 4 ft. plant. It is distinct from other salvias and is biennial. Raised from a May sowing.

S. grahamii is a shrubby type salvia, 3 ft. high with rose-scarlet flowers from July to October. It is not reliably hardy and should be planted in light, well-drained soil against a sunny wall and protected in winter. S. neurepia is also scarlet, rather taller, to about 7 ft. with aromatic, light green leaves which are more or less evergreen. It is equally tender but in really warm districts may survive with reasonable winter protection. Cuttings of both species can be taken from young shoots about 4 in. long in early summer. S. rutilans, the pineapple-scented sage, is also shrubby in habit, to about 3 ft. with magenta-crimson flowers in summer. It requires a warm greenhouse. S. horminum is a hardy annual with highly-coloured bracts (modified leaves at the base of a flower stalk). Thin out to at least 8 in. apart. Height about 20 in. Blue Beard has violet-blue bracts. Oxford Blue is self-explanatory, Purple Topped and Red Topped are purple and rosy-carmine. Pink Lady is a pleasing shade of pink. All are excellent for indoor decoration.

Bedding Salvias:

These are mostly varieties of the perennial Salvia splendens and bear brilliant scarlet flowers. Treat as half-hardy annuals. Sow in a temperature of 65 degrees F. Plant out 1 ft. apart during the first week in June choosing the sunniest possible position, and fairly rich soil. The species itself is rather late-flowering but seedsmen have raised various varieties which are earlier and of compact, bedding habit. Other colours in bedding salvias (derived from S. patens, perhaps less tiring to the eyes!) are noted later.

Blaze of Fire is 10—14 days earlier than the older Harbinger, being a dazzling scarlet with a perfect bedding habit. Height about 1 ft. Scarlet Pigmy is unusually compact, to about 6 in. Scarlet Piccolo, Early Gem, Tom Thumb Scarlet and New Dwarf Gem are other compact-growing varieties, similar in colour and extra early.

Salvia patens is a tuberous-rooted species, reaching 20 in. It is too seldom seen in gardens. The colour is a vivid gentian-blue, and though less showy than the scarlet salvias as the plant is not as free-flowering, makes a greater appeal to some people. Cambridge Blue is, as the name indicates, a lighter blue and Lavender Lady a clear lavender. Plant 15 in. apart during the first week of June. Lift the tubers in late October and store in sand in a frostproof shed or greenhouse. The tubers can be started into growth in pots in a frame or greenhouse in early April, hardened off and planted out as before. Increase by division at this time. Cuttings can be taken in spring or early summer, selecting young shoots 3 in. long. Root in pots of sandy compost in a cold frame.

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