Plant of the month - salvias

Whatever your favourite colour, you can probably find a salvia in that hue as there’s such an array of colours and forms, flowering throughout the summer.

Along with the culinary herb Salvia officinalis, there are shrubs, perennials and annuals from the Americas, Asia and the Mediterranean.  One of the most popular, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ is a classic with its inky dark flower spikes.  Salvia nemorosa ‘Crystal Blue’ in a soft blue or S. nemerosa ‘Amethyst’ are pretty cousins.  Similar varieties include the stunning S. x sylvestris ‘Viola Klose’ and ‘Rose Queen.’  These European salvias are hardy but prefer free draining soil.  Shear back for a second flush or deadhead the spires continually.

Salvia ‘Amistad’ is a show stopper.  It needs winter protection but is worth the effort, guaranteed to flower all summer.  S. guaranitica ‘Blue Enigma’ and S. ‘Black and Blue’ are also large and striking.  And S. ‘Cambridge Blue’ is a gorgeous cornflower blue salvia.

The shrubby Mexican group, which have a woody framework and small leaves are particularly drought tolerant.  They include Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ and come in the biggest range of colours from yellow S. ‘Lemon Light’ to bright pink S. ‘Neon’, dark purple S. ‘Nachtvlinder’ and S. ‘Sky Blue’.  Shrubby Mexicans are particularly drought-tolerant and can cope with a lot of sun and dry, impoverished soil – though they can suffer a little in severe frosts.  As well as taking off spent flower heads, you can give shrubby Mexicans a hard prune in late summer for more flowers later in the season.