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Salvias, six months on

Six months after buying my first serious lot of salvias, they are looking great. They have flowered through an unusually harsh summer with some weeding and a few waterings to keep them from wilting. On the back of that success I have recently acquired another 26 to expand the collection.

The first twelve

When I first decided to try salvias it was hard to know which ones to order. Fortunately Sue Templeton at Unlimited Perennials offers sets of 12 of her choice which she selects for your conditions, so I went with that.

The first twelve were Salvias: elegans ‘honey melon’, embers wish, fallax, blue ribbon, magenta magic, oppositiflora, subrotunda, waverly, mexicana minor, amistad, agnes, and costa rica blue.

Planning the garden

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Part of the first planting of salvias, six months on. The four large salvias in the front row are (l-r); costa rica blue (tall, caney, dark blue) amistad (purple), mexicana minor (blue), and waverly (white).

I had a bank below the house to dedicate to the salvias, so my first aim was just to get the new plants in and growing.

Although plants come with descriptions on the label, I find it hard to picture them when fully grown, so my strategy is to plant according to predicted size, see what they look like, then maybe make a better constructed planting from cuttings in following seasons.

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Salvia ‘amistad’ has been the runaway performer of the first lot of twelve

There is now a lot that I will change with that planting. The main error was the classic one that I couldn’t believe that those little plants could fill such big spaces. I left a metre between plantings, but most of them have spread well beyond that, and are now intertwining. Some, like Salvia ‘amistad’ have grown so well that they are crowding out less robust cultivars, and I lost Salvia agnes because its neighbours overshadowed it (or maybe because I didn’t see it to water it). I didn’t even notice I was losing ‘agnes’ until she had died.

At six months I have a good idea of form, as well. ‘Costa Rica Blue’ has tall and leggy canes, so is really suited to being seen at the back of a planting. The big blue inflorescences shine out.

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Saliva subrotunda makes a continuous summer show of red flowers on airy stems

Similarly, ‘subrotunda’ is airy and looks a little odd sitting on its own. As it grows readily from seed, I can see that it would make a nice mass planting with its bright red flowers all summer. I already have seedlings in flower from seed I collected, so the turnover can be very quick.

The next stage

When I saw the August delivery of 12 grow so well (my first mail delivery of plants) I got a second lot of 12 salvias in September, which also did well. Then when the weather finally moderated after a hot and dry summer I ordered another 26 in February, which are growing strongly already except for two early losses. The last lot were more shade-loving, and needed clearing of a new section of bank under a tree, but they are all in, and loving the wet weather.

Meanwhile I have been generating new plants from cuttings. Salvias take so easily that it’s almost a matter of course to pot them up when a branch snaps off from the dogs running past or whatever. This means that I can easily try combinations and locations, and I will move them round and keep expanding the garden.

Next we have the autumn and winter flowering forms to take the baton.

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