Bold Clowning Around
We all have high expectations of the plants we give a home to and while some results may vary, salvias very rarely disappoint. If it’s bold, vibrant colour you are after, coupled with a tough disposition, then they are your answer. Out of the large Salvia family, three members are particularly noteworthy for the summer garden – Salvia splendens, S. farinacea and S. coccinea.
If you’ve never heard of Mimulus before, it’s a great time to become acquainted with this gorgeous little bloom. Mimulus, translated from Latin, means “mime” which refers to the funny clown-face the fat petals of the flower make when viewed head on. Its more well-known name, Monkey Flower, is also a reference to the flower shape and with just the smallest imagination anyone can see a silly monkey face.
Salvia splendens, commonly known as scarlet sage or rooi-salie, also comes in shades of red, purple, pink, cream, white and blue. Not only are they easy to grow, with their showy flowers and deep green leaves, this eye-catching bedding plant offers glorious, long-flowering heads 30cm tall. They flourish in full-sun positions and once established, they withstand high summer temperatures.
Salvia farinacea (also known as mealy sage or blue sage) looks stunning in a mass planted bed or when used as a specimen plant on a patio. Though drought tolerant once established, it does prefer moist, but not water logged soil. Fortunately it is not prone to damage by snails and slugs and is fairly self-sufficient except in extreme weather conditions.
Salvia coccinea or scarlet sage occurs naturally in dry soils and waste places from South Carolina to Florida and west to Texas and Central America. In cultivation however, they perform at their best in rich, well-drained soils. They do best in full sun, but will tolerate some intermittent shade. A good water wise choice, but remember that flowering suffers without supplemental watering during dry spells.
Mimulus thrive in warmer regions but will also perform in areas with light or little frost, especially if planted or placed in a protected position. Speaking of planting, these bright little faces prefer to be shaded from our harsh sun, at least partially, so pick a shady or semi-shade position and ensure the soil drains well because they like very moist, but not waterlogged soil to rest in.
Monkey Flowers make fabulous colourful borders to beds when using the shorter varieties, in deep pockets in rockeries. You can pinch off dead blooms to encourage a longer flowering period but it is not essential.
The best time for planting strawberry runners is from January to April in regions with a temperate climate and February to April in colder climes, preventing the blossoms from appearing before the worst frost is over. They grow well with morning sun only but will be sweeter if they are in full sun all day.
Your strawberries should flower immediately after winter and the fruit will then appear. Just remember that strawberries should never be grown in the same soil as a previous season’s crop.
Portulaca’s popularity, especially in South Africa, is hardly surprising, as this tough little bedding plant rewards the garden with masses of brightly coloured blooms all summer and into autumn.
Because they don’t require a lot of water and have no real pest problems they would work really well in a xeriscape or water wise garden. Being that they do like it hot, try planting them in a container or hanging basket on a sunny patio or balcony. Their trailing habit will soon push the stems over the edge of the pot with a cascade of eye-catching blooms.