Posts Tagged ‘salvia’

Rosemary is now sage!

December 27th, 2019 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Botanically speaking, rosemary is now a Salvia


Yes, you may have heard about this, it even featured on the Radio 4 news: the botanists have decided that rosemary is actually sage. No no, don’t panic. We can all still call it rosemary, of course, and still cook it with the roast lamb. But botanically speaking sage was Salvia and rosemary was Rosmarinus – not any more. Here’s why.

Botanists have been taking a close look at rosemary, and also Russian sage (Perovskia), for some time. It was back in the 1830s that it was realised how similar, botanically, sage and rosemary are and even then it was proposed that the scientific name for rosemary should be Salvia rosmarinus. But the name never stuck.

There are almost a thousand different Salvia species growing wild around the world and botanists have now agreed that Rosmarinus and Perovskia are more similar, botanically, to many Salvia species than some other Salvia species are to each other.

When new science turns up things like this, the botanical names have to change to reflect the new understanding and there were two options. Keep the names Rosmarinus and Perovskia, and also give new names to about seven hundred plants previously known as Salvia. Or change Rosmarinus and Perovskia (and a few other genera neither you nor I have ever heard of) to Salvia. And that’s what’s happened – with just fifteen name changes. Fifteen is better than seven hundred: job done.

So botanically rosemary is now Salvia rosmarinus; Russian sage is now Salvia yangii.

But when the recipe says rosemary – you know they don’t mean sage, right?

This year’s Chelsea colour

May 24th, 2018 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Lupins and salvias in these rich colours were this year's fashionable Chelsea plants

This year, it’s dark blue, it’s purple, it’s lupins and it’s perennial salvias.

Every year at Chelsea there’s a colour or a plant – sometimes a very specific variety and sometimes a more general theme – that turns up all over the Show Gardens and all over the Great Pavilion. Informal, naturalistic planting now totally dominates but the key plants vary from year to year.

For a few years it was alliums, one year it was coppery-leaved sedges. It’s even been cow parsley – cow parsley! I never thought I’d hear people asking at the Mr F seed stand for packets of cow parsley seed!

This year I lost count of the number of show gardens using purple lupins in their plantings and using blue-purple perennial salvias. The Urban Flow Garden (above), designed by Tony Woods, is one of a number using both and placing them together very effectively right at the front of the display.

On the Gaze Burvill display dark salvias jostle with alliums and lavender, on the Spirit of Cornwall garden, designed by Stuart Charles Towner, salvias mingle with vivid blue anchusas, purple flowered chives, and borage. Although similar in tone, grouping these plants together well can be a challenge, the idea is for the whole display to be more than the sum of its parts but, sometimes, the parts is all it is.

Not so on the LG Eco-City Garden, designed by Hay-Joung Hwang, where salvias are artfully grouped with anchusas, cerinthe, alliums and purple-leaved fennel.

A noticeable second favourite plant this year is Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’. Used on show gardens to intermingle with the salvias or with sparky blue anchusas, it was also seen in bold groups in the Great Pavilion.

So… With little sign of cow parsley at the Show this year (but plenty along roadsides across the country, where it belongs), the Show’s signature plants really are worth growing. The trouble is, they sell out so fast.