Salvia leucantha or Mexican bush sage.
Salvia leucantha or Mexican bush sage an Autumn flowering perennial which can add colour to your Melbourne garden in early May. Salvias are generally drought tolerant and can handle subtropical as well as temperate climates. This makes them a good plant for temperate climates like Melbourne with its with warm to hot summers, mild and sometimes balmy springs and autumns.
Salvia leucantha belongs to the family Lamiaceae which is part of the sage genus. The significant sage genus, contains more than 920 species of woody and herbaceous plants of the mint family (Lamiaceae). These belong to the order Lamiales. Whilst they are attractive garden plants, many members of this genus are also important for culinary purposes such as flavouring, teas and food crops.
Mexican Chia (Salvia Hispanica)
Salvia hispanica, more commonly known as Mexican Chia, is one of the most important food crops from the mint family. The seeds of this annual herbaceous plant are known for being high in omega 3 fatty acid and fibre. Salvia hispanica is native to the desert regions of Mexico which makes it a very drought tolerant plant.
Many Salvia species are native to tropical America. Wagner’s Salvia also known as chupamiel (Salvia wagneri), is probably the most spectacular of these. This shrub is really more like a tree are as it can grow over 4 metres tall in ideal conditions. Not only is this a huge shrub, but the 300mm long flowers appear as scarlet spikes with magenta calyxes.
In the hills of southwest of North America Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea) displays its bright blue flowers after rainfall.
Vanguard (Salvia splendens) is native to Brazil. The dark green oval leaves provide contrast for the spectacular dense spikes of bright red flowers and bracts. This compact, erect annual grows up to 300mm tall and flowers from summer to autumn.
Salvia and Sage as food flavourings.
Salvia officinalis is an aromatic perennial native to the Mediterranean region. The Mediterranean climate has some similarities to the Melbourne climate, which means Mediterranean plants often thrive in Melbourne. This Salvia is cultivated for its leaves, which can be used either fresh or dried to add flavour to your cooking. These shrubs grow to around 60 cm tall. Sage has slightly stimulating properties and the leaves have been used for making tea for centuries. It was thought that the tea helped to improve wisdom and memory. In fact the name sage comes from the old French sauge which comes from the Latin salvus meaning healthy.
Another popular flavoring herb is the Salvia Sclarea. A biennial herb, this variety can grow a little taller. The hairy heart shaped leaves have a powerful aroma giving cooking a distinctive flavour. Its white flowers and leaflike bracts are violet or pink. Both of these species are native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean, and so you can expect them to be reasonably drought tolerant in climates like Melbourne. In many parts of the world, this plant can grow wild.
Landscaping Ideas with Salvia
As with most culinary plants, salvia will not generally be a problem with your pets. The good news is that you are unlikely to need any snail pellets to protect your salvias. A good variety for snail resistance is salvia x superba.
Garden ideas for Saliva
These versatile plants are great for commercial landscapes, residential landscapes and coastal and beachside gardens. The plant can be used as either garden beds or borders as well as vegetable gardens. Most importantly, the salvia is also a must have for any ornamental garden Australia wide.
Sage and Salvia Varieties for your Melbourne garden
Garden Care for your Salvia
Salvias, like many Australian native plants, have evolved to grow in fairly poor soils. Apart from the alvia Uliginosa or Bog Sage, soil needs to be reasonably well drained. Apply a soil conditioiner like a very dilute solution of Neutrog Seamungus occasionally.
More information on Landscaping and Garden Design
More information on the sage genus.