More Salvia in autumn

Sunday, 02 May 2010

Many Salvia are in flower in autumn

Last autumn I wrote a blog about some of the classic Salvia for this time of year. Whilst the genus Salvia is one of my favourites, not all its species and cultivars suit my garden: some fail to thrive, others get too big or have a poor shape, and some are just too similar to other ones so can't really be given garden room. I like to trial new ones for about a year before making a pronouncement on them - whether they will stay or go. So I am now at the point where I feel I can pass a verdict on some that I acquired last year, focusing on ones which are in flower at the moment, to retain a seasonal theme - some are specifically autumn flowering whereas others are continuing to flower on from summer

Salvia confertiflora is a very unusual specimen and I wasn't sure whether I was going to persevere with it or not, as it didn't flower very well last year when it was new. However, it has come into its own in recent weeks and it really has such an autumnal look about it that it is going to get the thumbs up. It comes from Brazil (like many Salvia that do well in our Sydney climate) and seems to be specifically autumn blooming here. It grows 1.3-2m tall, so needs some support from cradle stakes or nearby shrubs. The multitude of small iridescent orange flowers are held within velvety red-brown calyces, on long thin spikes. I have yet to find the best place for mine but I think it could look good near an autumn-colouring tree or an ornamental grass with tawny-brown flower plumes.

Another one which I thought was going to be too tricky is Salvia oxyphora, which hails from Bolivia. This is a beautiful plant, with amazing hairy flowers coloured hot pink. My first specimen died in the hot summer at the beginning of 2009 but I was advised to try another one and plant it in a semi-shaded spot: it is one of the Salvia which actually enjoys some shade. Here it has thrived and it started flowering in summer. It has very attractive glossy leaves, and will grow to about 1.2-1.5m tall. The size of the individual flowers is quite large and the overall effect is very striking. I have been told that the plant may sucker, but I have not experienced this in my garden yet.

Another fairly compact specimen I have been growing for about a year is Salvia curviflora, a native of Mexico. It is only around 1.2-1.5m tall so far, with willowy stems holding lovely slim flowers of a pretty bright pink colour. It seems to be a late summer/autumn-flowering type and enjoys sun. It is attractive grown near to silver foliage plants, such as a shrubby Artemisia or Plectranthus argentatus. One downside I have discovered to growing autumn-flowering Salvia is that they get attacked by the flocks of lorikeets which arrive here at this time of year and take great delight in sampling the nectar of the flowers, snapping off the stems as they do so! This one has been decimated in recent weeks.

Salvia involucrata 'Pink Icicles' has soared to over 2.5m in height in its build-up to its autumn blooming period, though it stood at around 1.2m till then. It has flowers of soft pink - not a hue often seen in Salvia blooms, which usually come in much brighter shades of pink, of which I am in danger of having a few too many examples in my garden! A relative of the familiar Bethel sage, its flower structure is very similar to that type but the scale of the plant is much larger. It was a seedling discovered in Australia - as many new introductions have been, including its long-flowering cousin Salvia involucrata 'Joan'. This one has only just started to open its buds in my garden this past week, and I am not sure how long the flowering will last - possibly into winter, according to some growers. However, I am looking forward to seeing it in full flight. I haven't decided the best position for it yet (most of my specimens do get moved around a bit before they find their final home) but it could be a good companion for some sort of Camellia.

My final new one is very recent - so I can hardly say I have trialled it enough yet. But it is flowering madly in its pot and was one I was very excited to find at the Bilpin Collectors' Plant Fair a fortnight ago and wanted to show its flower in my blog: Salvia 'Meigan's Magic'. Another chance hybrid, this one occurred in South Australia, nearby to a Salvia leucantha, which is suspected to be one of the parents - the other parent is not yet known. It is said to grow 1.4m tall in a rounded shape and is best in a sunny spot. It has crisp white flowers held in striking navy blue calyces, making a most dramatic combination. The flower spikes are quite substantial and it is supposed to bloom from spring until late autumn. I will report back on it once I have had it a bit longer.

Judging from the number of them for sale at the plant fair, the popularity of the genus Salvia is booming! It is gratifying to see these plants get the recognition they deserve, as many of them are just so well suited to our Sydney climate.

Reader Comments

  • By Margery 2087 Monday, 03 May 2010

    I also love salvias and bought a few more from the Bilpin Plant Fair. I have several Salvia Wendys Wish. I find that it forms a nice rounded bush and keeps flowering most of the year. Do you cut this salvia right down to the ground in early spring or only cut it down by say one half? Margery

    I also love Wendys Wish and I think you can prune it hard in late winter/early spring or else just cut one stem off every month or so through the year - then you will never be without flowers. Or you can cut it by half at a time as you suggest. Mine doesn't object to the hard prune - even though it is hard to do as it is still flowering at the time! Deirdre

  • By dorothy 4060 Monday, 05 July 2010

    Hello, Could you please let me know if any of your Sydney salvias would be good for a Brisbane garden. You do have some beauties in Sydney. Kind regards, Dorothy.

    Most of the ones we grow here should suit you. Have a look at the salvia website of Sue Templeton (Unlimited Perennials) to see her listings and descriptions. Deirdre

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