Salvias have long been a popular choice for home gardens and for very good reason. They come in a multitude of colours, flower prolifically from summer through autumn, some with winter blooms. Birds and bees love the tubular flowers and salvias are tough – tolerating heat and once established, also drought. You can find salvias at most local nurseries, but for more unusual varieties, we love to check out specialist growers.
Wildwood Garden and Nursery in Bilpin is one of our Sydney go-to salvia specialists. Owned by Wayne & Sue Tapping, Wildwood Garden has a phenomenal salvia collection which Sue loves to showcase at her annual Salvia Show. Usually held in autumn, this year (due to COVID restrictions) the show is open on the 17th & 18th October. More about the show here
Last week we had a chat to Sue about the upcoming show. Salvias are surprisingly diverse and amongst the thousands that Sue has been propagating for the show, you’ll find dwarf varieties, hedging salvias and ones that take shade. The hard part will be deciding which one (or many) of these beauties to buy! To get you started, here’s a few of Sue’s more unusual varieties and some of her invaluable growing tips.
Salvia ‘Bluebird’ (above) “is purely for a shaded position – it’s a big grower however, growing it in the shade softens the branches making them arch over with the weight of the flowers. As you can see in the photograph, this plant was growing beside a stone arched wall and has softened the wall beautifully. The panicles are huge and of a soft blue colour during autumn.”
Salvia ‘Oxyphora’ (below) “it’s hard to grow (especially for us) as ‘Oxyphora’ doesn’t like the cold of winter. But when the weather is warm it grows very, very quickly and has these big, soft furry flowers which are gorgeous from plump apple green buds. Really worth trying to grow – the only thing to remember is not to let it get too wet and a little shade in the hot summers would be a benefit. Flowers from summer to autumn.”
Salvia ‘Semiatrata‘ (below) “this gorgeous plant never fails to attract people, birds, bees and butterflies to itself. When it’s in full bloom, one could just sit beside the plant to get really good pictures of birds and insects. Everytime it flowers, the plant is massed with this unusual colour. We trim it back after flowering to keep it looking good. Easy to grow in both sun or part shade. It flowers in autumn and has rough tiny triangle shaped leaves which don’t hide the beautiful flowers.”
Salvia ‘Costa Rica Blue’ (below) “is a favourite because it rarely stops flowering and when in flower, the birds and bees just adore it. The colour is outstanding with black bracts and gorgeous blue flowers. I find it really hardy despite it coming from a hot country it. Really doesn’t mind the cold here in the mountains and is one of the few salvias that will have flowers through the dead of winter. It grows a little higher being 1.5m but can be easily kept trimmed at 1 metre and would make a great hedge.”
Salvia ‘Yamagata’ (below) “this little number we have growing in a pot in the shade. It usually flowers before we open the garden in autumn (3rd weekend in March) so most people don’t see how gorgeous and unusual it is. The flowers are produced in panicles of thick cream flowers that drip with honey. ‘Yamagata’ is stunning used on mass in a shaded situation. It usually goes underground for winter as it’s herbaceous but we’ve found this plant very hardy as long as it’s protected from the harsh summer sun.”
Salvia ‘Tequila’ (below) “is another beauty from South America. The colour is stunning. We have it planted in full sun at Wildwood in front of the café where we do get frosts, but this salvia seems unaffected. It has big furry leaves with black bracts and tangerine red flowers. Its main flowering time is from late autumn to spring and is starting to bloom now. ‘Tequila’ is great because it gives the birds, bees and butterflies food for the winter.”
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