There are some plants which worm their way into my heart quite unexpectedly and I become completely obsessed with them. Melianthus major is one but it is getting tough competition this year from Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy’.
Salvias are a family I have toyed with over recent years but they haven’t really grabbed my attention. I have a couple of hardy shrubby ones, the dark blue Salvia ‘Amistad’ and Salvia involucrata ‘Boutin’. I really like the latter although its hugh Barbie pink flowers on gangly rangy stems can be hard to accommodate in the border. However, Salvia ‘Phyllis Fancy is a far more elegant affair, a real lady of the border.
Her elegant stems tower above the foliage with the flower stems gracefully bending downwards. In the photograph above they are towering over the favoured Melianthus so you can see how much height they can bring to the border. This plant is a two year old cutting and has really put on substantial growth this year. It is a taller form of Salvia ‘Waverly’, which is a leucantha hybrid.
The glaucous blue foliage adds a nice contrast to other plants in the border and the leaves are sufficiently large enough to have their own presence.
In my opinion the flowers of Salvia Phyllis Fancy outstrip Salvia Armistad by a long way and I really can’t understand why it is not more popular. The combination of the lilac white flowers with deep lilac calyxes remains me of an elegant piece of 1920s costume jewellery. The pale flowers show up in the border, twinkling in the sunshine unlike Armistad whose dark blue flowers in my garden create a dull dark spot in the border.
As with the other more exotic looking salvias, Salvia Phyllis Fancy is frost hardy so here in the UK I will be taking measures to protect it over winter. I think I will heavily mulch the larger of my two plants and lift the smaller one. I have also taken cuttings which I hope are rooting well in the greenhouse.
I was lucky enough to acquire my original plant from my local HPS group where it had been introduced by Olive Mason, a real plants woman, but I know it is available from a number of nurseries including Ashwood Nursery near Birmingham.