True Blue

Salvia patens (AGM) is often known as gentian sage, thanks to its deep blue flowers.

Salvia patens intense 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.

Salvia patens blooming behind evening primrose

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.

Bright blue Salvia patens with Emilia javanica 'Irish Poet'

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.

Salvia patens with Dahlia 'fake Hillcrest Royal'Such a lovely strong blue; it really brightens up the garden.


16 thoughts on “True Blue

  1. It is lovely, and one of the reasons I first conceived of a blue border a number of years ago as it was so blue it didn’t really sit well next to its other neighbours – it probably only survived a year, but I might give raising it from seed a go, as such a deep blue is so unusual in the garden. I have (with difficulty!) ordered some aquilegia seed from Touchwood, by the way, and was interested to read about Caro’s spiritual worK, as that is something I am involved with too.

    • Yes, a very striking blue isn’t it? There aren’t many similar in the garden. Hope that you have lots of success with your aquilegia seeds. The website is very busy, but full of gems, much like her garden!

    • Thanks Christina. I planted orange annuals alongside with this combination in mind. I was a little disappointed that the emilia was a ‘lighter’/more yellow orange than I had imagined, and does not have as much presence as hoped, but it does manage to hold its own with the electric blue of the salvia.

  2. Oooh, how lovely! I’m tempted, very tempted. And it seems to go so garishly but beautifully with everything else. I have a Delphinium called ‘Gentian Blue’ which is also this strong blue and I think they might work nicely together, repeating the same colour in a border.

  3. I understand your ‘wink’ comment now, Sara! I lift my S.patens and over-winter in the cold frame. I’m in a quandary re dahlias though. I left some in the ground with a mulch but the ones I lifted, stored, and then grew on in pots before planting out have done much better, much sooner (same with cannas). D.

    • 🙂 Indeed. It hadn’t even occurred to me to lift the Salvias last year, though I did lift our Dahlias. We have more this year, as I took cuttings from several that are flowering now too, and hope to add a few more again to them next year, so lifting all of them – and finding space to store them – becomes rather onerous. I’m tempted to leave some of the duplicates in the ground and see how they do… though it is interesting that you saw such a difference. Hmm.

  4. That salvia is such a stunning colour Sara which your photos have captured perfectly. I grew it from seed this year but only three seeds germinated which was rather sad. Not sure where I went wrong but will definitely have to sow a few more next year 🙂

  5. Ah, I had the same thing a few years ago and my Salvia Patens came back a number of years, as did my (un-lifted) dahlias. I should add that finally they gave up as I didn’t even mulch them (oops), I suspect it was the silly amount of snow we had as well. Bx

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