Salvia - More Ornamental Forms
Last month we looked at some of the large growing Salvia. Those large brightly colored forms that make great plants for the back of the perennial garden. This month I will look at the large group of smaller, mass flowering forms including the S.greggi, S. microphylla and S. x jamensis cultivars and hybrids.
There are many other small forms of Salvia but this group is broad, colourful and very popular around the world. Salvia microphylla was first described in the early nineteenth century by Carl Kunth. It was then ‘re-described’ as Salvia grahami by George Bentham and Salvia neurepia by Meritt Fernald. The latter two becoming popular in US and UK respectively. As the first name Salvia microphylla takes priority. A particular form of S. grahami became quite popular in the US and was given the cultivar name of Salvia mircophylla ‘Graham’s Sage’.
Salvia microphylla is quite a variable plant and occurs over an extensive area from central southern United States right through all the mountainous areas of Mexico. Although it was first discovered in early part of the nineteenth century it wasn’t until late twentieth century that it became a popular garden plant. Over the last twenty years there have been numerous forms and cultivars brought into the nursery trade. Some of these are naturally occurring variants whilst others are one off mutations and others are commercial selections.
Salvia microphylla grows in close proximity to Salvia greggi, and even intermingled with. They look similar and are often confused with each other. The difference is that one has slightly serrated leaves and some minor variations in the floral parts. Both are easy to grow plants that tolerate a wide range of conditions including very low temperatures and extended dry periods.
To add to the confusion the two species interbreed to form the naturally occurring hybrid Salvia x jamensis which was first described as late as 1991 by the contemporary UK botanist James Compton. He didn’t name it after himself but after the local village of Jame. The plant name is pronounced “haamensis”. Like its parents this is an easy to grow plant that tolerates a wide range of conditions and for which there are already many selections.
All three varieties grow to 0.6 to 1.3 m high and 0.5 to 1.2m wide. They all have small green ovate leaves and generally flower from early summer to late winter. Some will spot flower through winter and spring in the warmer climates. They all prefer full sun in a well drained soil with low humidity. When mixed together in large numbers the three varieties all make a stunning show in a period where the garden is often looking a bit stressed. They are flowery perennials but are as tough as any Australian native plant.
Some of the better cultivars are:
‘Hot Lips’Red & White 0.6-1.20.6-1.0
‘Pink Blush’Pink 0.9-1.30.5-1.0
‘Sensation’Soft Pink 0.8-1.10.8-1.0
‘Crimson & Black’Crimson & Black 0.5-0.70.5-0.7
‘Pumpkin’Soft Pumpkin 0.6-1.00.4-0.6
Salvia x jamensis:
‘Desert Blaze’ Red (variegated foliage) 0.8-1.10.8-1.0
‘La Luna’Pale Yellow 0.8-1.10.8-1.0
‘Los Lirios’Pink Grey 0.8-1.10.8-1.0