Due to the current restrictions for large gatherings our first Talk in the Autumn season by our guest speakerJanet Buist, a retired nursery owner ,was via ZOOM. Over 40 members tuned in to hear Janet share her keen interest and extensive knowledge on the ‘wonderful world of salvias’
Amazingly in 1975 there were only 8 known species of salvias. Today there are over 1,300 species!
Pioneering work by Pat Vlasto in Dorset and Christine Yeo (who has published two informative books) and others increased the range and popularity of species spectacularly in the last few decades. The National Collection of salvias is now held at the Kingston Maurwad Gardens near Dorchester.
William Dyson of the Great Comp Gardens in Kent (Society members visited a couple of years ago) also has an extensive collection of salvias
The foremost website for salvias can be found at robinssalvias.com
Why have salvias become so popular? Flower power! Range of colours: Blues, reds,yellows, soft apricot and even black! Fragrant leaves.Attractive for bees, some steal the nectar!
Janet explained she lists them into five groups:
Hardy herbaceous: Can withstand winters. Plant in spring in well drained soil and cut back in winter.
Hardy evergreen: Mostly come from the Mediterranean. The leaves of salvia fruticosa can be infused in hot water and drunk as a refreshing tea. Plant in spring and ideally in full sun.
Half hardy: Salvia Patens with large gentian blue flowers and Salvia Cambridge Blue varieties can be treated like dahlias. Cut down in winter and mulch and cover with a cloche to keep roots dry.
Tender evergreen: Mostly derive from the new world. Salvia confertiflora with pink flowers and Salvia oxyphora (discovered in Bolivia) with coral red flame petals are particular favourites. Need to be sheltered from wind and need a frost free home over winter.
Shrubby: Most popular of all, for their long flowering. Varieties include Red Velvet, Cream, Icing Sugar, Orange Door, Cherry Lips, So Cool Pale Blue to name but a few. Plant out in May in well drained soil, sunny or sheltered position. Pruning in late July (the Hampton hack!) will ensure continuous flowering.
Salvias need protection from several pests and diseases. Notably whitefly and the capsid bug. Botrytis in over wintering plants in the green house can happen so it is best to maintain good greenhouse hygiene and allow fresh air to circulate.
Our next Talk is scheduled for 13 October when our guest speaker will be Bryan Hewitt the Head Gardener at Myddleton House.