Thursday, July 16, 2009


I was at my daughters' school today where I work one day a week. A year ago as a bit of an experiment I planted a couple of different salvias at school. The canteen courtyard is dominated by red poles supporting a veranda so I wanted to pick up on this colour. I chose Salvia gesneriflora because it is exactly the right colour (thats the second and third photos). The three plants grew really well in a position I would regard as part-shade (and quite dry) but I quickly realised that the plants were too fragile in a school situation. The kids love to hide among the garden beds (even though told not to – repeatedly!) and balls being thrown into the beds was creating havoc. I solved the problem by fencing the bed with a black plastic mesh to the height of 1m and by sticking up several posters saying NO BALL GAMES IN THIS COURTYARD. The plants then flourished and flowered profusely. They looked great! They are growing so well I have to keep pinching out their growing tips to try and keep them bushy.

The second salvia I planted was Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ (first photo). It had already proved its tenacity to me in my garden. Again the colour goes well in the canteen courtyard and the plants even though sustaining some damage seem to repair themselves quite quickly. I love the way some flowers are red, some white and some red and white! And the percentage of each changes according to the weather! They are constantly in bloom and the children have discovered that the flowers can be picked and the nectar sucked from them. This was something they had already discovered with Salvia ‘Huntington’s Red’; a plant of which has been in the garden beds at school for over a decade. It is squeezed between a cistus and a pelargonium where it is never watered, never pruned and never fed: it has persevered and blooms for a long period. The kids are not supposed to pick the flowers but how can you deny them the pleasure of sucking the nectar from a salvia bloom? It beats sucking the stem of an oxalis by a country mile! We used to call them soursobs - remember them?

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