I recently visited the Toronto Botanical Garden, and although the garden is relatively new, there is a lot to enjoy.
I particularly liked the entry garden walkway, an area of double borders of herbaceous and woody plants designed by Dutch garden designer and plant man Piet Oudolf, which is in keeping with his usual ‘sophisticated meadow’ style.
Typically, Oudolf combines bold drifts of perennials and grasses interspersed with shrubs and small trees. His choice of plants was driven by his strong penchant for architectural form and texture, as well as an interest in autumn and winter.
The Toronto park was the Dutchman’s first project in Canada, but he is well known in North America for his work on New York’s High Line, the Railroad Park and Greenway, and Chicago’s Lowry Garden at Millennium Park.
Although flower color is not Oudolf’s main focus, he has a talent for creating harmonious combinations. Shades of purple dominated the early June mix in a Toronto park, with touches of white and light pink.
There was a ‘Globemaster’ purple garlic plant, as well as a ‘Purple Smoke’ baptismal plant, and a very pretty bunch of lavender. Phlomis tuberosa “Amazon”. But what really caught my attention was the stunning trio of sage plants peppered with bright, straight, bright colours.
The first, Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, a plant I grew in my previous garden, is a beautiful Old World sage with dark-colored flower stems and stunning blue-violet flowers. Its narrow spikes crowded with flowers are 24 to 30 inches long. Shortly after its introduction, it was honored as the winner of the 2000 Outstanding New Perennial Award by the International Hardwood Federation.
Similar in shape and standing, Salvia nemorosa ‘Amethyst’ offers neon purple stems and rich lavender-pink flowers that last into summer. Bred by Oudolf himself and honored with the Royal Horticultural Society’s prestigious Award of Merit, it is considered the best pink cultivar.
The final sage, ‘Madeleine’, was also introduced by Oudolf, who discovered the plant as an open-pollinated seedling in a patch of ground. Hakim Sfeir. Featuring branching spikes of two-color flowers with a blue-violet upper cup with a white lower lip, ‘Madeleine’ grows to about 2 feet tall.
Salvias are easy to grow in the Upstate, because they are heat-loving and drought-tolerant once established. I have never seen them suffer from pests or diseases and they actually prefer little to no fertilizer. Maintenance is limited to post-flowering pruning to encourage a flush of new flowers, and for perennials and shrubs, old stems are removed completely when new growth begins to appear in early spring.
Ideally, it likes plenty of sun and requires well-drained soil.
Sex Salvia, often called by its common name, sage, includes more than 900 species. The botanical name is derived from Latin To save“, meaning “healing”, in recognition of its many medicinal uses.
Although beautiful in the garden, salvias also make good cut flowers, adding a little drama to arrangements with their long, slender spikes of color. Some are even edible and can be used to flavor salads or desserts.
But what I love most about these plants is their magnetic ability to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. To me, these winged creatures bring life to the garden, and salvia never fails to please.