Salvia patens (AGM) is often known as gentian sage, thanks to its deep blue flowers.
Last spring I bought a packet of seeds from Sarah Raven, and raised a handful of plants which I later put out in the garden. All summer and long into the autumn they provided a brilliant splash of blue in the semi-circular bed up by the house. Only a couple of flowers on each stem open at any one time, unlike many salvias whose spires have a greater proportion of open flowers, but the number of stems on each plant is generous, and their intensity of colour easily compensates for this open habit.
The seeds were marketed as half-hardy annuals, so I was surprised and indeed delighted when the plants re-appeared this spring. A little research revelead that they are in fact half-hardy perennials, which form tubers in a similar fashion to dahlias. Perhaps we were just lucky, but their survival in the border that they share with our dahlias has me thinking now about trying to overwinter some of the dahlias in place with a mulch, rather than lifting them again this winter. Something to ponder over the next couple of months.
In the meantime I am still enjoying the vibrant blue of these long-flowering salvias, which works equally well with the pale buttery Oenothera odorata, vivid orange buttons of Emilia javanica ‘Irish Poet’ and calendula flowers, or the hot pink Dahlia ‘fake Hillcrest Royal’ that we bought from Great Dixter last autumn.