Salvia 'Icing Sugar'. Image courtesy of Hayloft Plants.
These woodier summer-flowering salvias are derived from two species - Salvia microphylla and S. greggii.
Salvia microphylla inhabits a large area including south-eastern Arizona and the mountains of eastern, western and southern Mexico. Most forms have magenta-red flowers.
The less hardy S. greggii sometimes has peach, white or yellow flowers. It’s rarer and only found in a narrow band running southwards between south-west Texas and Mexico. However I fail to overwinter S.greggii from year to year.
In the early 1990s, the botanist James Compton discovered a new hybrid between the two in the Sierra Madre range in north-western Mexico, where the two species overlap. This plant was found near Jame, in Mexico, and subsequently called S. x jamensis after the village. This led to a greater range of subtler colours with more hardiness.
Its arrival excited William Dyson, now the curator at Great Comp Garden in Kent, and the sandy Kent soil and climate suited them. William now propagates and sells over 200 salvias and roughly half belong to this shrubby group.
How to grow
These are sun-loving plants from high-altitude positions, so good drainage is essential for survival, as it is with almost all salvias.
These hardy salvias should be left to flower late into the year and then allowed to overwinter without being cut down. Cut them down once new shoots appear in the spring, taking out any dead wood. They can survive down to 14F if well drained.
Cuttings can be taken easily from this year’s growth. Normally these shrubby salvias produce side shoots. Pull these away gently and leave the heel intact – that is, do not trim. Place in a 50 per cent mix of sand and compost and they will root easily.
If your greenhouse is unheated, leave the cuttings in situ until next spring and then pot them up individually. Keep them on the dry side over winter and protect with fleece if the temperature plummets. Plant them out in May.
Wand-like salvias mix well together and it’s possible to grow reds, pinks and purples together as the small flowers blend beautifully, almost forming a hedge.
Dark-leaved sedums (like 'Purple Emperor’) and the dark eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy’ also highlight the flowers well.
Varieties of hardy shrubby salvias for June-to-November Flower
Deep-purple buds frame wide-lipped crimson flowers that fade slightly to a rich red. Very floriferous. 3 ft/90 cm.
This descendant of 'Silas Dyson’ is more compact with dark-maroon calices clasping crimson-red flowers. The distinctive, almost heart-shaped foliage is matt green. 2 ft/60 cm.
Salvia x jamensis 'Peter Vidgeon’
This lilac-pink salvia, a new colour break, was raised by salvia enthusiast Robin Middleton. A contrast to reds, crimsons and purples. 2ft/60 cm.
Salvia x jamensis ‘Raspberry Royale’
An upright plant producing raspberry-purple flowers. 3ft/90 cm.
Salvia ‘Dyson’s Crimson’
A similar colour to ‘Silas Dyson’ but with darker green leaves and a more compact habit. 2ft/60 cm.
Long inflorescences of bright, coral-red flowers from July to November. Dies back to its rootstock in winter, but very hardy. 3ft/90 cm.
Salvia ‘Christine Yeo’
This extremely hardy hybrid between S. microphylla and S. chamaedryoides was discovered in the Devon garden of former National Collection holder Christine Yeo. Violet purple flowers, but not as floriferous as many. 3ft/90 cm.
Salvia microphylla ‘Wild Watermelon’
A fast-growing , vigorous salvia with greyish calices holding wide-lipped bright-pink flowers. Very eye-catching. Up to 4ft/120cm.
Salvia microphylla ‘Icing Sugar’ (pictured above)
Striking bi-coloured pink and purple flowers and an offspring of the red and white ‘Hot Lips’. 3ft/90 cm.
Salvia ‘Dyson’s Joy’
This bi-coloured pink and purple salvia, bred by William Dyson and launched in 2011, has a compact habit. Worldwide Plant Breeders Rights to be applied for. 2ft/60 cm.
Salvia 'Red Velvet’
Glossy leaves and hot-red flowers, but not as hardy as most. 3ft/90 cm.
Salvia ‘Stormy Pink’
A sprawling salvia that flows with cream-tinted pink flowers held in dark calices and dark, smoky foliage - hence the name. 3ft/90 cm.
Dyson’s Nursery Great Comp Garden - www.greatcompgarden.co.uk
Ashwood Nurseries - www.ashwoodnurseries.com
Hayloft Plants - www.hayloft-plants.co.uk
The Natural Gardener
Val Bourne is the author of The Natural Gardener
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