The plant of the month for July is the salvia, a truly versatile group of plants well worth getting to know. They deliver so much to the garden: there's culinary sage, lending a smoky flavour to your cooking, and pretty and eyecatching annual clary for a flash of instant colour. And don't forget sturdy, hardy perennial sages, delivering months of vivid blue-purple colour with little maintenance required. You couldn't ask for more.
Sage hails from Mexico so whichever type you grow, give it plenty of sunlight and a free-draining soil. Your reward is a generous display of flowers from midsummer until the first frosts. The hardy sages in particular are rock-solid reliable performers and a must-have for any perennial border: try violet-blue 'Caradonna' or sultry indigo blue 'Mainacht'.
Tender sages offer exquisite spires of blooms in dayglo crimson and magenta: 'Amistad' carries plumes of royal purple, while blackcurrant sage has scented leaves and the increasingly popular 'Hot Lips' has bicoloured flowers in red and white. All should survive a mild winter, but if in doubt lift in late autumn and pot up to bring under cover somewhere frost-free. Plant out again next spring and it'll bounce back good as new and give you years of dazzling colour to come.
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