This is a page devoted to Salvia, Nepeta and a couple more Genera that I think sit well with them. What they all have in common is that they all belong to the Lamiaceae and are the sort of plant to grow in a position in full sun. I’ve grouped them in a way that makes sense to me, but is, to all intents and purposes most probably arbitrary.
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- Salvia pratensis ‘Rose Rhapsody’ – pratensis Ballet Series. Upright spikes carrying relatively dense heads of rose-pink flowers. Tends to produce more quantity of more upright, shorter stems than either Salvia ‘Twilight Serenade’ or Salvia ‘Sweet Esmerelda’. Summer flowering. reblooms if cut back after first flowering. 40cm. Good, reliable perennial sage for the front section of any border. A form of a native sage which grows in damp meadows.
- Salvia pratensis ‘Twilight Serenade’. Part of the Border Ballet series. This is a good, reliable perennial sage for the front section of any border. Upright spikes carry relatively dense heads of blue-violet flowers. The overall habit is quite open. Similar in habit to Salvia pratensis ‘Sweet Esmerelda’. 50cm. Summer flowering. reblooms if cut back after first flowering. A variety of a British native which finds its home in damp meadows.
- Salvia pratensis ‘Sweet Esmerelda’ Part of the Border Ballet series. This is a good, reliable perennial sage for the front section of any border. Upright spikes carry relatively dense heads of magenta-pink flowers. The overall habit is quite open. Similar in habit to Salvia pratensis ‘Twilight Serenade’. 50cm. Summer flowering. reblooms if cut back after first flowering. A variety of a British native which finds its home in damp meadows.
- Salvia sylvestris ‘Mainacht’ (Maynight) is an excellent garden hybrid producing a long display in May and June of richest deep violet flowers on short flowering spikes. The habit tends to be somewhere in between varieties like the denser Salvia ‘East Friesland’ and the more open pratensis types like Salvia ‘Twilight Serenade’. Height 60cm Best grown in full sun. Cut back after flowering to encourage a second flowering.
- Salvia nemorosa ‘Ostfriesland’ (East Friesland). Excellent garden value on account of its dwarf habit (40cm) and long lasting intensely coloured spikes of violet flowers and redder bracts. It has a particularly neat habit and really benefits from the bracts being maroon, giving another dimension to the flower spikes. Best grown in full sun.
- Salvia x sylvestris ‘Blue Queen’ (‘Blaukonigin’) has excellent garden value on account of its dwarf habit (50cm) and long lasting rich blue flowers enhanced by dark purple bracts. Lacks the overtone of red in the flower spike that salvia ‘east friesland’ has. Best grown in full sun. Trim back after flowering to encourage a second flush and keep the plant tidy.
- Salvia nemorosa ‘Rosenwein’. Clumps of foliage produce lots of spires of pink flowers which emerge from darker buds and are set off by purple bracts. A undemanding plant for a sunny site growing to 60cm (2′). good cut flower and for drying for everlasting flower arrangements. A super garden plant.
- Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’. is a handsome species with long arching spikes of small purple flowers which emerge from conspicuous whorls of mauve bracts that outlast the flowers and produce a pretty purple haze. The bracts make the whole plant really ornamental long after flowering has finished. Careful deadheading will encourage the side branches to produce flowers also. The leaves are quite rounded and possess a slight woolly texture. Prefers a well drained site in full sun. 60-90cm
- Salvia sclarea ‘Turkestanica‘ (True Clary) is a magnificent show-stopping biennial to add impact to the garden. Large attractive rosettes of blue green foliage develop a branching flower head to 6ft tall in the second year. The flower are lavender with a white lip but the real stars of the show are the large showy white & pink bracts. Clary has been long cultivated both for ornament and flavour, having been used as a substitute for hops and to flavour wine. The names ‘Clary’ and ‘sclarea’ both derive form the Latin ‘clarus’ = clear; a reference to the use of the mucilaginous seeds to clear eyesight. The essential oil is often used in perfumery.
In these times of fashionable rages
Let us honor enduring sages.
Known to cure, to mend, to ease;
Companions to cooks; splendid teas.
Hundreds of species our world adorn,
Richly diverse in flower and form.
Hail to Salvia, that scented salvation,
Worthy of study and our admiration.
– by Andy Doty
The Genus Salvia is huge with at least 900 species covering a really wide range of habitats and growth types. They are one of the few plant groups, (including Mecanopsis and Delphinium), that covers all three primary colours, excelling at red and blue and dabbling somewhat in yellow. There are shrubby sages, perennials sages and a number of really spectacular biennials as well. We only scrape the surface of this rich variety, but we hope we offer a number of good reliable garden plants.
The question to ask is what will Salvia bring to the herbaceous garden. Probably their best asset is their long flowering and often repeat flowering habit. In some cases, such as Salvia ‘Purple Rain’ and Salvia sclarea ‘Turkestanica’ the actual flowering is a bonus as the bracts provide a large proportion of the colour and persist long after the flowers cease. When they are in flower they provide valuable nectar for bees and butterflies.
The majority of sages come from warm, Mediterranean style climates, enjoying a warm position in full sun with good drainage – It’s hard to generalise with such a huge family. As such many of the 900 species are better treated a s half hardy, but there are many good garden varieties, especially Salvia pratensis from meadow situations, including the British Isles, and Salvia nemerosa from the woodland edges. As a general rule, avoid excessive wet, especially during the winter and err towards more sun than shade. As for care, simply cut back when the flowering stems cease to look pretty and you will often be rewarded by a second flowering.
Salvia nemorosa has been grown in gardens for as long as gardens have been popular and has hybridised freely in its time. Hence some of the most popular Salvias are of uncertain parentage, being hybrids of Salvia nemorosa with possibly S.pratensis, S.virgata, S x syvestris and S. x superba. The one thing they have in common is being particularly good garden plants.
Salvia is the Latin name for the sages, a group of plants that belong to the mint family, Lamiaceae ( formerly Labiatae ). The family is characterised by having lipped flowers, square stems and a tendency towards fragrant leaves. The Lamiaceae contain quite a few of our most used herbs such as sage, thyme, mint and oregano. In fact without the Lamiaceae and Umbellifereae the herb garden would look quite bare.
Within the Lamiaceae, Salvias are most closely related to Nepeta, the catmints. In some cases, such as Nepeta govaniana, they can be easily confused. The flowers of Salvia are borne in distinct rings all around the flowering stems in whorled structures called verticillasters. The flowers of Nepeta are borne on longer stalks.
Salvia derives its name from the Latin ‘salvere’ – to be n good health. Our common name sage comes from the same root, but via the French ‘saulje’.
Arranged approximately from short to tall.
- Nepeta x faassenii produces sprays of lavender blue flowers from mid Summer until Autumn over short mounds of grey green foliage. An excellent alternative to lavender as a short hedge, brilliant below roses and good at the front of any border. Catmint deserves its popularity as a cottage garden stalwart. Trim to keep tidy and encourage a second flowering. 50cm. Excellent for the bees. Many plants grown in the trade as Nepeta racemosa are in fact this hybrid.
- Nepeta nervosa is a dense shrubby perennial flowering in late summer with short dense spikes of pure blue flowers. Best in well drained soil in full sun. Cut back after flowering. 30-60cm. Leaves are narrow and much greener than most Nepeta with darker flowers in denser heads. A pretty addition to the Genus. Runs a little more underground than other species.
- Nepeta sibirica ‘Souvenir d’Andre Chaudron’. (N.’Blue Beauty’). Relatively large flowers of a good blue-mauve on open spikes, produced over a long period give this plant a look more of an Agastache than a catmint.It has a quite different growth habit than plants such as N.faassenii and N.’Six Hills Giant’ in that it doesn’t have the dense crown and lax stems. It has a spreading habit, throwing up vertical stems with long, toothed, triangular leves that lack the felty rugosity of its brethren. Good ground cover. 45cm.
- Nepeta ‘Six Hills Gold’ is our own selection, a new sport from an old favourite. Like Six Hills Giant it produces a 3-4ft wide hazy cloud of lavender blue flowers which the butterflies adore, but in the early spring the blue green foliage is pleasantly variegated. The variegation fades to green by mid summer. Trim to encourage second flowering.
- Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ is a must for the front of any sunny border where it produces with great reliability a 3-4ft wide mound of soft grey green foliage and a hazy cloud of lavender blue flowers which the bees and butterflies adore. Trim to encourage second flowering. Easy to grow and divide. A useful alternative to lavender for short hedging.
- Nepeta grandiflora ‘Bramdean’ is a beautiful strong growing catmint with sprays of soft blue flowers set off by sea- green foliage. Lovely when grown beneath old roses. Similar in habit to Six Hills Giant, but a little larger and stouter, darker in flower and up to month later. Loved by butterflies. 60cm plus
- Nepeta grandiflora. A beautiful strong growing catmint with sprays of soft blue flowers set off by lavender calyces and sea- green foliage. Growth is quite upright with the flowering stems also held erect. Better in the iddle of a bed than some of the more mounding varieties. Lovely when grown beneath old roses. Loved by butterflies. 2ft.
- Nepeta grandiflora ‘Dawn to Dusk’ is a beautiful strong growing catmint with sprays of soft pink flowers set off by pale sea-green foliage. The flowers are enhanced by a darker calyx which persists long after the flower falls. Loved by butterflies. 2ft. It has a quite different habit to some of the other Nepeta grandiflora types, being more delicate and far more stiffly upright. The flowers tend to be produced in wafting wands above the foliage rather than in a spreading mound.
- Nepeta govaniana. A very different catmint, both for its very airy, upright habit and its flower colour. The flowers, which are borne on loose spikes and are of a soft lemon-yellow with a darker yellow lip. The foliage is of a pale apple green with a distinctive minty aroma all of oits own. Often mistaken for a Salvia on first sight. Trim to the ground at the end of the year. can grow 1m tall. Originally form the Himalayas.
‘If you set it, the cats will eat it,
If you sow it, the cats don’t know it.’
This old rhyme refers to the belief that cats will always go for a transplanted catmint, but often ignore a plant grown from seed in situ. It probably stems from a transplanted plant being more bruised and therefore releasing more scent. Whilst cats love the scent, rats abhor it and it can be used as an effective rat deterrent.
With the exception of the yellow flowered Himalayan Nepeta govaniana, which is yellow, the catmints are all a gentle blue or white and create a similar impression in the garden to a large lavender. They form low to medium sized mounds of often grey-green foliage that produces a mass of spikes of lavender blue flowers that are highly attractive to bees. They all prefer a well-drained site in full sun where they will be happy for years. Simply trim back the foliage when the flower spikes begin to look untidy and again in Spring.
Whilst all of the Nepeta are referred to as catmints, the species that the name correctly refers to is Nepeta cataria. It has a particularly minty aroma and is particularly attractive to cats. Nepeta x faassenii and Nepeta grandiflora have a similar minty smell to the leaves, with Nepeta govaniana having a smell all of its own. Nepeta subsessilis is another matter again; lovely in flower, but with foliage that smells like the cat died under it.
Nepeta derives its name from the town Nepete in Italy where Catmint was once extensively cultivated.
The flowers are held in distant verticillasters, rather similar to Salvia. One of the features that distinguishes this genus is tThe 15 ribbed nature of the corolla tube.
Catmint has an old reputation both for seasoning and medicinal uses. It has been smoked in the past on account of its supposed mild hallucinogenic properties. It was said that the root chewed made even a gentle person fierce and quarrelsome. In fact, one English hangman could never bring himself to perform his duties without first chewing catnep.
- Agastache ‘Summer Sunset’. Lovely warm, orangey flowers are borne from russety calyces for months on end from June to September. As they age the flowers take on the hue of crushed strawberries with charming exerted styles. A lovely two tone effect on neat compact plants 60cm high. Good for pots or a sunny planting where it will be a bee and butterfly magnet.