PLANT OF THE WEEK #84: Salvia nemorosa varieties (like ‘Caradonna’)


There are few vegetation extra putting within the backyard, proper now (simply pre-Christmas within the Southern Hemisphere) than the nemorosa-type salvias.  They’re highly effective in form (piercingly vertical), in floral density (making a strong block of color) and in hue (principally purples, super-heated by crimson undertones).  In my (and lots of Aussie’s) current-favourite type, ‘Caradonna’ (although Matt from Vintage Perennials reckons I ought to know higher, and that there are far superior kinds) even the flower stems are just about black-purple, which, even lined with flowers are so slender that every stem seems virtually thread-like, however darkish and splendidly wealthy.

These nemorosa-types additionally occur to be a few of the few salvias that can overwinter for these of us in frosty areas.  All of the shrubby ones, lots of Mexican origin, are killed stone-dead by about frost quantity six, and must be replanted in late spring annually.  However nemorosa varieties are fully deciduous, overwintering as near-dormant basal rosettes, and might snort on the worst any winter can dish up (in Australia, at the least).  Over about eight to 10 weeks from early spring, these basal rosettes shoot up quickly, carrying smallish, raspy leaves, and terminate in lengthy, emphatically vertical flowerheads that final for a number of weeks. 

Salvia ‘Caradonna’ on far proper, changing into progressively extra plum-coloured, as flowers fall, leaving reddish bracts

That’s, no doubt, the least sophisticated, a part of their life-cycle.  In human phrases, that’s their pleasant, trouble-free childhood.  They’re so irresistible over this era that it’s tempting to splash them round in every single place, in nice sweeps.  However their troubled puberty is but to start.

With none intervention, following their spectacular early-summer bloom, flowerheads brown off with just about no Oudolfian attraction. The dome of foliage thins to patchiness, and the remaining leaves usually carry a little bit of powdery mildew.  So to do nothing isn’t an choice.  The query is what to do, and therefore this submit.  I’m hoping, if you happen to’ve had any expertise with these undeniably fabulous vegetation, that you just’ll add beneath what YOU do, to optimise their influence in your backyard.

David Glenn, at Lambley Nursery, has lengthy spruiked the strategy of chopping them proper to the bottom after flowering, and acknowledged by doing so he might rise up to 3 cycles of flowering every season.  My local weather doesn’t present me with the identical response, most likely being a number of weeks shorter by dint of my elevation and barely decrease temperatures.  Handled on this method, I reckon I’d get one and a half shows per summer time.  And in any case, I not a fan of a ground-level hole in my perennial plantings right now of yr, nonetheless short-term that may be.  

My administration technique quantities to little greater than a radical dead-head, chopping again to a degree the place small buds the place the leaf meets the stem show that there’s progress potential.  In doing so, I’m often capable of get a second, moderately lowered flowering.  Plainly the potential for regrowth and re-flowering varies enormously from one named type to a different, however so far as I do know nobody has achieved any comparative research, nor documented their outcomes.

Salvia nemorosa in its second flowering in a planting by German designer Bettina Jaugstetter

By far the wisest perception I’ve had concerning using the nemorosa salvias got here from German designer Bettina Jaugstetter, who in planning her giant naturalistic perennials plantings, by no means makes use of them in giant clumps, however dots them by way of the the entire planting.  In that method, they make an early summer time influence spangled about, however are then minimize proper to the bottom, leaving no noticeable hole (being particular person vegetation), and any additional flowering is taken into account a pure bonus. 

There’s a wide variety of nemorosa-type salvias obtainable in Australia – most likely greater than we want, to be frank.  I admit I couldn’t see the purpose within the pink type named ‘Amethyst’ till I noticed it used repeatedly, and because the solely factor in bloom at the moment of yr, on a piece of the Excessive Line in New York.  The white kinds stay firmly within the ‘why hassle?’ class for me, however as almost each different plant prejudice I’ve had has finally been firmly and fatally challenged, I’m guessing this one will fall as nicely, in time. 

Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’ on the Excessive Line, New York

We’d so love to listen to not solely how you could have managed the nemerosa kind salvias in your backyard, but in addition that are your favorite varieties, and why!