The easy-growing, sun lovers

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Salvias growing in Cedric’s garden.
SALVIAS make a wonderful display with many varieties flowering from spring to autumn and even into early winter. 

Salvias belong to the mint family, Lamiaceae, with fragrant foliage when crushed to the wonderful range of flower colours. These perennials are just so easy to grow even if you have never grown a plant in your life.

Quoting that authoritative book “A New Zealand Handbook of Bulbs and Perennials”: “Salvias are a big genus of over 500 species, without which our gardens would be the poorer. Particularly as many of them provide shades of blue, violet or purple not frequently found in other plants.”

These range from the purely ornamental salvias to Salvia officinalis, the common culinary sage to one of my favourites, Salvia greggii, which is still in flower in our garden after providing many months of enjoyment with its red to purplish-red flowers.

Most varieties are found in the southern US and Mexico, although salvias can be found from Turkestan and Russia to Asia.

Unfortunately, there have not been many varieties available in Australia, but this is changing with folk such as David Glenn, of Lambley Nurseries, and Plant Growers of Australia, both in Victoria. The former is a mail-order business and PGA is a wholesale nursery.

PGA, one of the largest nurseries in Australia, last year brought us the delightful Daphne “Eternal Fragrance”. Now it is growing a wonderful range of salvias, many not previously available and grown exclusively by PGA. Salvias are sun lovers, but do require a well-drained soil. Once established, they only require a deep watering during extended periods of heat.

Here are a few to tempt you:

Salvia “Wendy’s Wish” with a long-lasting display of bright, magenta flowers. This was a recent and stunning discovery made by a Victorian salvia enthusiast. A percentage of proceeds from sales is donated to the “Make A Wish Foundation”. The Sierra range comprises of three compact forms of S. greggii of coral, pink and red flowers. S. “Limelight” and S. “Lolly” look great planted behind lower plants in the garden bed with their rich variations of violet-blue flowers.

Send me a stamped self-addressed, standard business size envelope at “CityNews” (GPO Box 2448, Canberra City, 2601) marked “It’s salvia season” and I will send you PGA’s coloured leaflet listing all their new varieties.

The “Gosh Wow” shrub... Osmanthus auruntiacus.
LAST week I mentioned Osmanthus auruntiacus, but it is such a stunning shrub that I have to include a photo of it again. This has been flowering in our garden for several weeks with the flower colour of apricots and a similar fragrance. Everyone who picks up the fragrance in our garden lists it as a “must have” shrub.

Ours is now 4m tall with a spread of 2.5m, although with judicious pruning it could be kept smaller. If you have the space, I would suggest you allow it to grow to its natural size. A visitor to our garden a few years ago picked up the fragrance from the other side of the garden and called it the “Gosh Wow” plant.

SOME readers have contacted me having not been able to find the new varieties of yellow and porcelain-blue pansies I mentioned a few weeks ago. The nurseries that grow these plants are in Victoria and, while not being actually flooded, have been affected by the torrential rain. Don’t worry, they will become available.

THE Growing Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens will hold its Australian native plant sale, 8.30am-11am on Saturday, April 14. With plants from just $3-$5, you will need to arrive early. Bring your own bags or boxes.

Now is the time…

  • to plant foxgloves.
  • collect any fallen fruit under trees.
  • sow seed or plant seedlings of winter veggies.
  • plant Bellis Perennis (English daisy), polyanthus and primulas for winter colour.
  • clean up fallen rose leaves that may harbour diseases.
  • plant thyme as a “living” mulch.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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