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Wise up to the joys of sage!

Point to the delights of sage! This modest herb is delicious in the pot and provides a touch of summer color

  • Nigel Colborn says the flowers are striking and colorful
  • UK garden expert says Salvia sagittata stems grow very tall
  • Adds that the plant has cobalt blue flowers and survives most winters outdoors
  • He adds that the plant group has very varied colors, including red and blue

Early in my career, when I learned to garden, salvias were simply bedding plants with red flowers. Few realized at the time what a huge group of plants this is. From common culinary sage to six-foot flower-laden beauties, salvias are astonishingly diverse.

Even Great Britain has a few natives. Clary sage, S. pratensis has pretty blue flower spikes, while wild sage, S. horminoides, is more modest. Other salvias come from Europe, Asia and America.

Flower colors range from blue and purple to pink or red. Those with serious ‘wow factors’ are from America. They’re the glamor boys, with eye-catching varieties from Canada to Argentina. New World salvias can be showy or charming.

From the enchanting deep sapphire of S. patens to the surprising scarlet S. Royal Bumble, these intense, eye-catching colors are perfect for the second half of summer.

While searching online for the best colors this week, I had to gasp for an image of Salvia sagittata Blue Butterflies. The multiple stems of this Andean beauty grow over a meter high and bear swarms of shimmering cobalt blue flowers. Although borderline hardy, the plant survives most winters outdoors, especially under mulch. You can buy S. sagittata from sararaven.com.

Nigel Colborn says salvias are a huge group of plants and amazingly diverse, ranging in colors from blue and purple to pink or red.

Nigel Colborn says salvias are a huge group of plants and amazingly diverse, ranging in colors from blue and purple to pink or red.

LASTING BEAUTY

The best salvias have a long-lasting, decorative value. Even a humble culinary manner can be beautiful. Varieties with purple or gold colored leaves taste just as good as plain green. Hardy, herbaceous flower varieties such as S. pratensis and S. x sylvestris look best from early to mid summer.

Try dark blue Mainacht and pink Rose Queen or purplish Tenorei. For more striking colors and longer lasting blooms, New World varieties are the knees of the bees. Many are shrubs grown from late summer flowering S. greggii and S. x jamensis.

They are small-leaved shrubs with loose branches, easy to keep compact by pruning. My favorite, S. greggii Royal Bumble Eye-catching: Tall blue spikes of Salvia Pratensis Tenorei look striking in a border, carrying a constant confetti of small, dazzling scarlet flowers.

Reproduction is laughably easy. Take cuttings anytime during the growing season.

STATELY SPIKES

Many New World salvias are herbaceous perennials. Whether tall or dwarf, the best have great garden value.

One, S. uliginosa bears spikes of kingfisher blue flowers on tall stems each fall. Borderline hardy, survives most winters. If you have a lot of space, S. confertiflora is a whopping wood-based perennial with dull maroon flowers. Also large, tall and neatly clumping is S. guaranitica.

The large leaves are nettle-like and the flower stems almost black. They match perfectly with clusters of midnight blue, elegantly elongated flowers. The best variety is S. guaranitica Black and Blue. Herbaceous, semi-hardy salvias abound. I love S. patens for its intense blue parrot beak flowers.

There is also a Cambridge blue shape. Much larger, S. involucrata has showy pink bracts and purplish-red flowers. Among the aromatic varieties, try pineapple sage, S. elegans Scarlet Pineapple. The leaves smell just like canned pineapple.

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