Pots of Style: a planting plan with salvia

A warm container planting display using Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’

Ben Preston, head gardener of York Gate in Leeds, offers the designs up for this warm container display using salvia

Here I combine two quite beautiful but entirely different, red-flowered sages to show off this fascinating group of plants. From the rising presence of Salvia confertiflora to the shorter and prolific-flowering Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’, the variety  of habit and flower colour in this genus is vast, with many flowering for months on end. The soft, silvery foliage of Helichrysum petiolare provides a canvas both to show off and to contrast with the dark stems and intense blooms above. If you’re looking for more, don’t miss my other planting container display using salvia. 

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How to achieve the look

Container and composition

The architectural centrepiece, Salvia confertiflora, makes quite the statement. An unusual species bearing impressive, upright, flowering stems, with furry, red flowers and calyx to match, along with large, corrugated leaves. In the understorey, the smaller but equally impressive Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ will produce intense red blooms all summer, starting in May and continuing to November. To tie the display together, the scrambling, silvery Helichrysum petiolare entwines beautifully with the smaller salvia to cover the lower naked stems. The deep, rectangular stone trough is covered in interesting lichens that will be prominent
in early summer before being engulfed as the year progresses.

Pots of Style: a planting plan with salvia
© Eva Nemeth

Care and cultivation

Salvias are very quick growing and produce a strong root system, so a regular feeding and watering schedule is necessary to maximise their potential. Compost only has a finite amount of nutrients, so we feed all our pots. I use a liquid organic seaweed-based plant feed once a week.  All my tender salvias are overwintered in
a greenhouse, keeping just a couple of stock plants of each species or cultivar to maximise the use of space. It is incredibly easy to take cuttings from salvias. I prefer doing this in early spring. Stock plants will flush with new growth early in the year under the warmth of the greenhouse and numerous soft-wood cuttings can
be taken from every plant.

Pots of Style: a planting plan with salvia
© Eva Nemeth

Plants

Left: Salvia confertiflora Tall, architectural species salvia from Brazil. Tender perennial. 1.2m. RHS H2.

Right: Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ A shrubby bush salvia with aromatic foliage and intense, red blooms.  This Salvia microphylla cultivar is one of the hardier New World salvias, often proving to be evergreen. 75cm. AGM. RHS H4.

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Below: Helichrysum petiolare Tender sub-shrub used as an annual. Grown for its soft, velvety, silver foliage. It has a prostrate habit that will climb and trail through other plants. 45cm. AGM. RHS H3, USDA 9a-11b.

Pots of Style: a planting plan with salvia
© Eva Nemeth