The plant of the month for July are Salvias
Mid late summer can be a difficult time for our borders So many border plants have finished flowering by this time so any that blossom later are hugely valued. But this is show-time for Salvias, when planted by silver-foliage plants such as artemisia, and mixed with diascias and penstemons they will turn any sun-drenched spot into a hugely colourful feature that can be fitted into the smallest of gardens.
Salvias will flower their socks off from June onwards. We are not talking about those small annual scarlet salvias that we all used to grow in massed bedding displays with lobelia, alyssum and French marigolds. The ones you want to go for are the perennial kinds that have become much more popular over the last few years since many of them can cope with all but the harshest of winters.
Varieties like ‘Hot Lips’, with its red and white flowers, are wonderfully colourful and brilliant grow to around 2ft high but have a delicate canopy of small, glossy green oval leaves that perfectly sets off the brilliant flowers. Look out for the increasing number of varieties there more than 900, in fact – including shrubs, perennials and annual plants, and these vary in shape and form from petite and dainty, to leggy and tall.
Your favourite plants can be overwintered in a cool greenhouse or porch as an insurance policy against the loss of those that remain in the garden. Those that do stay outside may well take a bit of a battering over the winter, but don’t cut them back until spring, when you can snip back the old stems to just above an emerging shoot 6in or so above soil level. Soon they will be covered with new leaves and eventually a new array of flowers.The fact that the plants keep flowering right until the frosts of autumn makes them tremendously good value.
Don’t forget a well-known salvia is the culinary herb sage, S. officinalis, with its fragrant grey-green leaves and spikes of pretty mauve flowers.