Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour

Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour

Long-blooming salvias are saviours in the garden. This warm-climate perennial and a fast-growing annual in colder growing areas, adds colour and interest to any seasonal border. Their rich colours play well with other strong colours: deep yellows, oranges, and pinks. Their forms, from upright sub-shrubs to smaller edging plants, extend their versatility.

Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour
Salvia greggii white
Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour
Salvia splendens red

Salvias thrive in dry conditions, appreciating free-draining soil and with regular deadheading, they can flower from late spring until the autumn.  Salvias can do elegant or cottage, large or small, in full sun or dappled shade. With their intense colouring, salvias can lift a garden into something special. They are also good mixers, providing long-flowering verticals that flatter complementary shades of purple, blue, and red, while shimmering against textural green. (Culinary or medicinal Salvia officinalis can become large and unwieldy in an herb garden and can be better placed among flowers, with its wonderfully textured foliage.)

Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour
Salvia africana lutea
Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour
Salvia murii

The Salvia genus contains more than  900 species. The species and cultivars of interest to gardeners  generally hail from the southern US, Mexico, and through Central America into Brazil. There are  22 indigenous species in Southern Africa, with 19 in the Western Cape. The most well known indigenous ones in our region are S.africana caerulea, S. africana-lutea, A.chamelaeagnea, Salvia murii.

 

Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour
Salvia sclarea var. turkistanica
Salvia – a Gardeners Saviour
Salvia leucantha

The names “salvia” and “sage” both come from the Latin “to save,” which refers to the health-giving properties of the culinary and medicinal herb. However it is clearly a garden saviour in a decorative sense: for keeping late summer borders alive, and as an important source of nectar for pollinators.

Salvias belong to the Lamiaceae or Labiatae  family, which are  a family of flowering plants commonly known as the mint, deadnettle or sage family. Many of these plants are aromatic  in all parts. The alternate family name Labiatae refers to the fact that the flowers typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip (labia in Latin).