Sage Advice for Bees
The genus salvia is one of the widest in the plant family with over 900 species worldwide, and one species or another is native across almost two thirds of the planet, including here in the UK.  Salvia are also known as sages, with common sage, Salvia officinalis, being probably the best well known species through culinary uses, albeit many people wouldn’t know it as a salvia at all.  However, it isn’t only native plants which are vital to the well being of our insect populations and the pollinators among them, and many garden worthy salvias imported in the past 100 years have multiple benefits for both gardeners and the creatures they share their gardens with. 
Salvias are aromatic, often long flowering, often brightly or unusually coloured, and usually attractive to pollinators.  They are diverse in habit, hardiness, form and leaf size, but they all share common traits.  As garden plants they are pretty unfussy – about the only thing they don’t like is excessive wet, especially in winter.  They are often easy to propagate, so even the tenderer ones can be overwintered with care.  They are often very striking, and they come in such an array of size and form that there will be one for almost every place in the garden.  They are good, for instance, as underplanting for shrub roses, as the aromatic nature of their leaves will deter aphids, and the shrubby types, such as ‘Hot Lips’, ‘Nachtvlinder’ or ‘Joy’, will form a dense undercover.  This has the benefit of preventing blackspot spores, which may have overwintered on decayed leaves on the surface of the soil, from splashing back up on to the foliage of the roses in heavy rain.  
Salvia make great pot plants, focal points, feature plants and the supporting cast; witness the great curled silver leaves of Salvia argentea, the statuesque ‘Amistad’, the long flowering and tough Caradonna.  They attract bees and other pollinators, and many have herbal or culinary uses too.  Plant some salvia in your garden – you won’t regret it!
July 10, 2021 — James Lay

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