episode 43 | show notes & advice
Salvias are on Sarah’s take to the moon list for late season flowers in November. There are so many reasons to recommend them.
They have incredible crushed velvet textures, in jewel-like colours – Aegean Sea blues, scarlet reds, deep pinks and rich purples. Salvias often flower from late spring to winter, filling pots and borders with colour. Sarah first started growing them at Perch Hill as a way to feed pollinators late in the year. She now also uses them as companion plants, helping to keep roses fungal-free.
Salvias are fantastic cut flowers with edible petals and it is very easy to keep them looking healthy and happy. With so many wonderful and reliable varieties, Arthur and Sarah run through their favourites on this week's episode.
in this episode, discover...
- How salvias are used for colour, to provide food for pollinators and as companion plants at Perch Hill, i.e. ‘Amethyst Lips’ planted under roses to prevent blackspot.
- The smaller varieties of salvia, ‘Nachtvlinder’, ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Cherry Pie’, that are ideal for pots.
- Care tips to help salvias survive as perennials over winter and Arthur’s step-by-step guide to taking cuttings.
- Sarah’s favourite salvias to grow for cut flowers, like brilliant pink ‘Hadspen’, along with searing, conditioning and arranging tips.
- Ideas for using edible salvia flowers - ‘Jezebel’s strong pineapple flavoured petals are perfect for adding to cocktails or sprinkling over ice cream.
- A delicious roasted butternut squash recipe with sage and Parmesan, perfect for this time of year.
Even now as we head into December, with the mild winter most of us have been having, salvias are still hanging in there. We’ve had a couple of mild frosts at Perch Hill and our dahlias are now blackened, but our salvias have not yet been scorched.
microphylla and x jamensis group
Small enough for larger pots, brilliant for pollinators, particularly bees. As we touched on in previous episodes (e.g. Episode 24) salvias are excellent to keep roses black-spot and mildew-free AND they’re still-flowering now. Also, they are all very drought tolerant. They thrive in full sun. And the more compact ones are good in quite exposed sites e.g. even by the seaside (bar the whopper, involucutra, ‘Hadspen’ which is quite brittle).
• ‘Dyson’s Maroon’ bred by William Dyson who holds the National Collection at his nursery near Sevenoaks.
• S. ‘Nachtvlinder’ – rich crimson, small-flowered, small-leaved.
• And its hybrid ‘Amethyst Lips’ with purple and white, particularly good very late in the year as the white gives it a brilliance which shines out right now in the garden. At Perch Hill we have it under Rose ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ to keep the rose good and healthy.
• S. ‘Cerro Potosi’ – wonderful bright pink.
• ‘Cherry Pie’ - Arthur’s new favourite – a crazy, glacé-cherry red with a bit of purple in it. Incredible texture of velvet.
All these smaller ones have edible flowers e.g. ‘Cerro Potosi’. Many of them have strong pineapple flavour.
MEDIUM SIZED ONES
• ‘Love and Wishes’ - fantastic rich crimson-pink.
• ‘Embers Wish’ – brighter red flowers, but still not too red.
• Salvia uliginosa.
Beautiful turquoise blue, late-flowering and likes dampish ground. Sarah got to know this in her parent’s garden 50 years ago.
• S. ‘Amistad’ – Rightly hugely famous at the moment and very very long flowering in the richest blue.
• S. ‘Amante’ – like mulberry jam with touches of fuchsia-pink. Not as vigorous, but still superb.
• S. involucutra ‘Hadspen’ which looks like a brilliant pink Lotus flower. Stands 4-5ft tall with buds like a lotus-flower in brilliant pink.
The key thing we’ve found is that we don’t tidy them up after the tops are frosted, but leave the tops to canopy down over the crown, not tidying them up till mid-April when the hard frosts are over with us (in all but this spring, when we had a super late frost!). Left untidied, they are perennial and survive most winters with us at Perch Hill.
Just like with other tender perennials, (pelargoniums, arctotis, etc) we tend to take cuttings in autumn, when they are the height of their growth spurt.
They are very easy to propagate – from cuttings if you have a heated propagator, or greenhouse/polytunnel.
These will be ready to plant out after the frosts next spring and will flower next year. It is worth doing cuttings every year or every other, as youthful plants flower more strongly than older plants.
· Take a (ideally non-flowering) side shoot with good number of leaves on.
· Remove the apical tip.
· Fill a pot with gritty compost.
· Remove any foliage bar the top leaves (these would be below soil level when you’ve pushed them into the compost of their new pot).
· Push the cuttings around the edge of the pot.
· Put on a heated bench or propagator.
· If any go mouldy or brown, remove them.
· Pot them on when you see axillary buds forming, bright, zingy-green. By this stage of the year, that might not be till spring.
· Pot each cutting into its own individual pot – ¾ are likely to strike and form their own roots.
Roasted Stuffed Butternut Squash
This is a simple butternut squash recipe that we often cook for lunch in the autumn, when there are lots of them about. You can use any squash, but with butternut, it’s perfect.
· 1 medium-sized butternut squash
· Generous drizzle of olive oil
· Salt and black pepper
· 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, freshly ground
· ½ teaspoon chilli flakes (optional)
· 3 tablespoons crème fraîche
· 3 tablespoons chopped sage (or chives)
· 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
On a baking tray roast the squash whole for 30 minutes. This makes cutting it in half and taking out the seeds very easy.
Then cut the squash in half lengthways. And scrape out the seeds and stringy bits, and discard.
Drizzle the cut flesh with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and cumin. Bake, cut side upwards for another 15-20 minutes till the flesh starts to colour around the edges (this brings out the sweetness and enhances flavour). Prick it with a fork to check that the flesh is soft. If not, give it 10 minutes more.
Take the squash out of the oven and leave until it is cool enough for you to handle. Scoop out most of the flesh with a teaspoon (taking care not to break the skin) into a bowl and mix this with the crème fraiche, chilli flakes if using (I like these to cut through the sweetness of the creamy flesh), 2½ tablespoons of the sage (chives are good in the summer) and half the Parmesan. It is best to do mix this together with a fork, or give the mixture a quick zap in the processor to get rid of any lumps of squash. Check the seasoning.
Spoon the squash flesh back into the empty skins.
Scatter the Parmesan and then bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the top starts to look brown and crunchy.
Fry the remaining sage leaves in olive oil and scatter them over the top to serve.
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