Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

            Plant of the Month, December  2011
Salvia daghestanica - David Lapsley
“Behold I show you a mystery”

Early in 2010 I gave part of my rockery a radical make-over – removing plants which had outgrown their usefulness, and generally tidying up.   Later in the early spring when I was weeding, I came upon a little outgrowth of leaves I couldn’t recognise.     It didn’t look like a weed, but I had no memory of planting or sowing which could have accounted for it, so I let it remain.     It flourished first into an attractive downy rosette, and then to a sturdy flowering plant with short stems (8-10”), and rich violet/blue flowers which lasted into October.

There were now two mysteries to solve – how did it get there, and what was its name?      It gradually dawned on me that it might have been the product of a visit to the Dublin Group’s conference at Termonfeckin  in 2008.    Peter Korn was one of the speakers who had a few of his plants for sale, and when his stock had virtually run out, he left a few odds and ends without labels, to be taken away.     My guess is that my plant was one of them, especially since Peter has a few salvias on his lists,  titled as “Salvia sp.” 
After many fruitless enquiries, the name was finally settled for me, by a keen gardening friend in England, who sent a photo to the RHS.   It was identified as “Salvia daghestanica” – rare in cultivation, apt to be tender, especially vulnerable to wet winters, otherwise very desirable.   Further notes on cultivation, are that it needs good soil with excellent drainage, and it looks miserably dead in late autumn and winter, “but if you are lucky, tiny growing points appear among the black remains, and it soon gets going in spring”.      As a point of interest the name varies in some descriptions to be “Salvia canescens var. daghestanica”  
To continue with the tale of mystery, I lost my plant in winter 2011, after taking off its protecting cover too soon.   However with help from many quarters I have managed to plant on two rooted cuttings, one in a pot, and the other (photographed) in the garden, under protection since late September.    Hope springs eternal – there might be another miracle next spring!!