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Wise up to the joys of sage!

Nigel Colborn says sage is a huge group of plants and is amazingly diverse, in colors ranging from blue and purple to pink or red

Wise up to the delights of sage! This humble herb is delicious potted and offers a touch of summer color

  • Nigel Colborn says the flowers are eye-catching and colourful
  • The UK-based gardening expert says the stems of Salvia sagittata grow very tall
  • Adds that the plant has cobalt blue flowers and survives most winters outdoors
  • He adds that the group of plants has very different colors, including red and blue

Early in my career, when I was learning to garden, sage plants were just bedding plants with red flowers. Few realized at the time what a huge group of plants this is. From common culinary sage to flower-laden 6-foot beauties, species of sage are amazingly diverse.

Even Britain has a few natives. Meadow sage S. pratensis has pretty blue inflorescences, while wild sage S. horminoides is more modest. Other sage species come from Europe, Asia and America.

Flower colors range from blues and purples to pinks and reds. Those with serious “wow factors” hail from America. They are the glamor guys with flashy styles from Canada to Argentina. New World Salvias can be flashy or charming.

From the hauntingly deep sapphire of S. patens to the stunning scarlet of S. Royal Bumble, these intense, eye-catching colors are perfect for the second half of summer.

As I was browsing online for the best colors this week, a picture of Salvia sagittata Blue Butterflies made me gasp out loud. The numerous stems of this Andean beauty grow to over a meter tall and bear clusters of shimmering cobalt blue flowers. Although the plant is borderline hardy, it survives most winters outdoors, especially under mulch. You can buy S. sagittata from


The best sage varieties have long-term decorative value. Even humble culinary sage can be beautiful. Varieties with purple or gold-colored leaves taste just as good as plain green ones. Hardy herbaceous flower varieties like S. pratensis and S. x sylvestris look best from early to mid summer.

Try dark blue Mayacht and pink Rose Queen or violet Tenorei. For more eye-popping colors and longer-lasting buds, New World strains are on the bees’ knees. Many are subshrubs bred from the late summer flowering S. greggii and S. x jamensis.

They are small-leaved, loose-limbed small shrubs that are easy to keep compact with pruning. My favorite, S. greggii Royal Bumble Striking: Tall blue spikes of Salvia Pratensis Tenorei look striking in a border bearing a constant confetti of small, iridescent scarlet flowers.

Propagation is ridiculously easy. Take cuttings at any time during the growing season.


Many New World salvias are perennials. Whether tall or dwarf, the best have terrific garden value.

One, S. uliginosa, bears kingfisher blue flowers on tall stalks each fall. It is borderline hardy and survives most winters. If you have plenty of space, S. confertiflora is a rich, woody perennial with dull maroon flowers. S. guaranitica is also large, tall and forms neat clumps.

The large leaves are nettle-like and the flower stalks are almost black. These pair perfectly with clusters of midnight blue, elegantly elongated flowers. The best variety is S. guaranitica Black and Blue. Herbaceous, semi-hard salvias are legion. I love S. patens for its intense blue parrot’s beak flowers.

There is also a Cambridge Blue form. S. involucrata is much larger and has showy pink bracts and purple flowers. Among the aromatic cultivars, try Pineapple Sage, S. elegans Scarlet Pineapple. The leaves smell like canned pineapple.

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