Salvia X superba

This plant is not. Perhaps, a star in its own right, but is a great feature player, a foil for other more brilliant plants. It is a hardy perennial of the invaluable sage family, happy in any soil so long as the position is sunny, flowering from midsummer for many weeks. The plant is bushy, branching into many spikes of blue flowers enclosed by crimson bracts, the colours combining into intense purple when the flowers are fresh. The bush grows to a height of some 3 feet (90 cm) and 18 inches (45 cm) across. The leaves are crinkly, of typical sage green.

This is not a plant for a singleton position. You want a group of at least three plants in a border, perhaps with yellow summer perennials behind, such as Achillea ‘Moonshine’, a pale yellow yarrow of medium height with silvery leaves, or the taller A. flipendulina ‘Gold Plate’, with large, flat heads of bright yellow, or the best of the verbascums, ‘Gainsborough’. For yet more contrast, you could add to the group the scarlet campion, Lychnis chalcedonica – and why be shy of a strong colour scheme in the mid-summer sun?

Salvia X superba needs regular deadheading, even a seemingly callous shearing to the ground while there are still a few buds unopened. You will be rewarded by a fresh new crop of flowers in early autumn.

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