Plant of the Moment: Salvia Phyllis Fancy

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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.

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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.

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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.


19 Comments Add yours

  1. Diana Studer says:

    Melianthus looks good with purple spires

  2. rusty duck says:

    Yes, I do like that. I’ve taken cuttings from my ‘Black and Blue’ this year as last year’s plant didn’t make it through. But you’re right, unless the darker ones get really bushy they don’t show up as easily.

  3. Melianthus takes quite a bit of beating but I think I agree, the salvia is giving it a run for its money. Not sure I like Hugh Barbie !

  4. Brian Skeys says:

    The second picture is a lovely photo with the salvia arching gracefully over the Melianthus.

  5. Lovely plant… and lovely pictures as well!

  6. Noelle says:

    I agree with you that this one is stunning. I think it is the form of the flower stem, and the two tone flowers, and the healthy textured leaves and and and …..I do hope to come across this, as I have just the spot for it in my garden.

  7. Julieanne says:

    It looks gorgeous. By the looks of it, yours is in light shade, so it doesn’t need full sun, is that correct?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Julieanne
      The spot is very sunny and free draining, its where I grow most of my bulbs. There is some late afternoon shade though

  8. Christine says:

    Have you tried rooting salvia cuttings in water? I have had great success with this method this year and as a consequence have rather more salvias than I know what to do with! As if…..! Salvia Amistad is good in the shade where the indigo blue flowers really show up in the gloom.

    1. Noelle Mace says:

      If you have one of Salvia Amistad, and are happy to send it my way…see from my blog if there is anything you would like from my garden, and maybe we could arrange a swap!

    2. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Noelle
      I’ll let you know how the cuttings fare


    3. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Christine
      I will have a go at rooting them in water, thanks. I am surprised you think that Amistad flowers show up in shade, they seem to disappear in my garden!!!

  9. Anna says:

    Phyllis has certainly taken your fancy Helen and I can see why. The foliage looks more attractive than that of ‘Armistad’. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for those cuttings too 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Anna
      I think I will follow Christine’s advice and try rotting some in water as well to double my chances.

  10. Gorgeous images. I think the foliage compliments the flower colour, subtler than Armistad?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Kate
      I have Armistad and I’m not that keen at all but that could be because I am quite perverse and the more people rave about something the less I like it!

  11. Cathy says:

    Very striking – and I like the way it dangles.

  12. tim says:

    I have boths phyllis and amistad. Although phyllis is good, reliable and visible from a distance, it just doesnt flower as long as amistad. amistad goes frome june to december but phyllis only starts in august here (zone 9, uk) until about nov/december.
    Unfortunatly i find amistad to be a tender salvia, most plants i have of them dont get through the winter here.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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