New Plants on Trial – Salvias from Middleton Nurseries

Salvia microphylla Delice Fiona

Salvias provide such a welcome zing of colour from mid summer to first frosts. In my garden, pale blue and white ‘Phyllis’ Fancy’ was still in full flower on Christmas Day. Specialist growers, Middleton Nurseries, have sent me a collection of new varieties to try out. I haven’t paid for these, but in common with other bloggers, I’m happy to trial plants and products in return for giving my honest opinion. Here’s some of the plants they sent.

Plants arrive via mail order and were carefully handled by the delivery company. I always think it’s worth giving a good report when plants and products are delivered in a good condition and the drivers have taken the trouble to ensure the contents are undamaged. The box was also placed on the doorstep the right way up! These things always help somewhat. It’s exasperating when ‘this way up’ arrow stickers are not heeded.

Plants are snugly nestled inside a sturdy cardboard box and as you can see arrived in good condition even though temperatures were very high.

The cardboard container is easily folded open so plants are not pulled about when extricating them from the packaging. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve nearly decapitated a plant trying to get it out of the box. Some thought and care has gone into the design of this one, and it’s appreciated.

Plants are carefully tied to supporting canes and plastic bags are wound around the plant pots to stop compost drying out. My only criticism would be that the plastic bags could be biodegradable instead of single use. However, I’ve reused these on top of pots of cuttings to maintain humidity. So mine won’t be thrown away, and will be kept in the potting shed and reused time and time again.

There’s a very useful plant care leaflet included in the box, and a discount code for further purchases. I’ve signed up for more discounts, special offers and gardening club newsletters.

Each plant has a label which is packed full with information. It’s great to see the Union Jack flag on the label, indicating the plants are grown in Britain. I like to support British nurseries as much as I can.

I love this pretty, pale variety Salvia microphylla Delice Fiona. It has rich green leaves, pale pink flowers with a deeper pink centre. Instructions say it can be grown in part shade to full sun, requires moderate to occasional watering and grows 60-90cm high. Can be grown in containers.

Another pink variety is Salvia greggii Shell dancer with large pink flowers with the basal tubes and base of the lower lip coloured deep rose. The outer portions of the lower lip start with ‘hot salmon’ shading then lighten to nearly cream as it ages. The label says the plant is ‘seldom completely out of flower.’ That’s my experience of salvias, they do have a long-flowering period, which makes them such good value.

If you like the paler salvias, this one’s stunning. It’s from a new ‘So Cool’ range. This one is Salvia So Cool Pale Cream. Utterly captivating. New for 2021. Compact-growing, 30-40cm tall.

The first salvias I grew were blue. I love this variety, microphylla Delice Feline. The plant label says the flowers are deep violet with a white centre, flowers profusely until autumn and grows 60 -90cm tall. A new hybrid for 2020.

Another 2020 hybrid is Salvia microphylla Suzanne which has bright red upright flowers with white markings. 60-90cm tall.

And finally, Salvia microphylla Carolus has pretty mauve flowers which look striking set against the darker almost black stems and dark coloured basal tubes. Has a smaller-spreading habit than most microphylla varieties.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Middleton Nurseries for mail-order plants. I’m delighted with my parcel of new and very pretty hybrids. High quality plants, well-grown and expertly packaged. I’ll be posting photos throughout the summer to let you know how they develop.

Here’s some more information about the nursery:

Middleton Nurseries are located in the village of Middleton in Staffordshire and have been growing plants since 1975. The nursery is dedicated to growing a wide range of new and unusual herbaceous, perennials and rare breeds of salvias. Middleton Nurseries was started in 1975 by Stephan Zako and at first grew ‘pick-your-own’ strawberries. John Zako went into the family business after leaving Pershore College with a National Diploma in Horticulture. Using his expertise he slowly transformed the business into ‘one of the leading plant specialist nurseries’ with an extensive block of greenhouses.

In April 2012, the family sold the retail/ garden centre portion of the business and kept the nursery which enabled John to focus on his true passion of growing and breeding plants. The nursery specialises in salvias which they sell up and down the country at RHS gardening shows each year. Since 2021, Middleton Nurseries has become a third-generation family business after John’s son, James, joined the business.

Here’s a link for the nursery website: https://middletonnurseries.co.uk/

Are you growing any salvias this year? Are you as passionate about them as I’ve become? Get in touch and let me know how you are getting on with your gardening and growing this summer. Thank you, as ever, for reading my blog.

32 thoughts on “New Plants on Trial – Salvias from Middleton Nurseries

    • Thank you. Probably ok in the summer. My garden is very exposed to high winds, being at the top of a ridgeway. We are always colder than the nearby village. I’ve placed them at the front of a south-facing wall. They will all be dug up over winter and plunged into pots in the poly tunnel and the holes left will be filled with tulips. A sort of rotation of plants goes on here.

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    • When you say colder Karen, would you tell me what sort of temperatures you have, please. We don’t plant anything till end of May at the very earliest. This year was touch and go because of the particularly variable temperatures and weather patterns we have had. Today, for example, it’s very windy and it feels like the chill of early March outside.

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      • Middleton Nurseries says the salvias should survive the summer in those conditions. You will have to taken them indoors in the winter. I took cuttings last autumn and overwintered them at 5C in the greenhouse, and on the kitchen window. These cuttings have been potted on and just planted out. They are in flower already and have overtaken the mother plants which were dug up and put in large pots over winter. So I won’t bother to keep the mother plants, as they take up a lot of space. I’ll just keep the small 4” pots of cuttings. If you look on the nursery website, there’s details of what temperatures the plants will survive down to. Good luck.

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    • As a member of the HP S I was given 2 Salvia’s. One is white and pink and one salmon. Not having grown them before I need some advise please. They are beautiful but sprawling around. I have trimmed them a bit but can you tell me what to do now? The bees are always feeding on them. Wonderful.

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      • Hello Brenda, thanks for reading my blog and for getting in touch. Salvias certainly flower for a long time and do attract the bees. Mine too are sprawling around. If they have more or less finished flowering, I chop them down by half at this time of the year. They will still have enough top growth to protect them over the winter. If you look carefully at the stems you’ve chopped off, the little side shoots that have not flowered are perfect for taking cuttings now. Pull them downwards and there will be a small heel. On a chopping board, using a very sharp knife, tidy up the heel by cutting across it. Mix up a cuttings mixture of 50 percent peat free compost and 50 percent grit for drainage. Put into a 9cm pot and tap the pot on the table to remove air pockets. Remove some of the lower leaves. If they are the large -leaved salvias, you can cut some of the top leaves in half to reduce moisture loss. Use a pencil to make holes around the edges of the plant pot and gently insert the cuttings. Water with tap water until water comes out the bottom of the pot. Put a half plastic milk container over the top to make a mini cloche, or use a plastic bag. Place in a warm place, such as under the staging of the greenhouse. Or a west-facing windowsill. Not in full sun. These should root within a couple of weeks if you do it now while temperatures are still good. Remove plastic bag as soon as they have rooted. You can either leave them in the 9cm pot until spring and then pot them up, which is what I do. Or separate them out and give them their own small plant pot. Put grit on the top of the pots to aid drainage. Keep frost free in a greenhouse or spare room. Don’t over water. The salvias left in the ground might or might not survive the winter, depending on how wet it is. But your cuttings are your insurance policy and they will grow to full size plants quickly when you plant them out in the spring. This year, I’m not going to dig up all the mother plants. They are staying out and I’ll risk it. But I will have plenty of little pots of cuttings to plant out anyway. Hope this helps. Good luck and report back.
        In spring, you cut the mother plants down to the ground and they grow from the base. You can do the Chelsea chop in May by cutting them in half then which reduces their height.

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  1. What a lovely selection Karen! Yes, I love salvias too but you have so much more choice in the UK. I have grown two sorts of Clary sage and I managed to hunt down a few unusual ones that will not be hardy but I shall enjoy anyway. One is called Syringa Blues and is REALLY blue!

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    • I love that lovely vibrant blue. All the bright colours shine like jewels in the late summer sunshine. But I’m also drawn to the new paler shades, the pale pinks, cream and white which are new to me. I shall take lots of cuttings and overwinter the mother plants in the unheated poly tunnel. They all came through last winter with just a layer of fleece on top in January. Enjoy your Sunday, Cathy. And thanks for reading the blog. 🙂 xx

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  2. Thanks for your most thorough review Karen. Those plants look most happy and healthy and most well packed indeed. I’m quite tempted 😄 I bought two new salvias yesterday when we visited Wollerton Old Hall – salvia ‘California Sunset’ and salvia x jamensis ‘La Luna’ but I’m sure I could find room for more. I love the look of ‘Carolus’ and will certainly have a look at the nursery website. My favourite is salvia X jamenis ‘Nachtvlinder’.

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    • Hello Anna, we were at Wollerton Old Hall a week ago- and I spotted those beautiful plants. They also had some very fine irises, and some perennial violas which I really wish I’d bought now. Must find time for a return visit soon. I also have Nachtvlinder which has given me a lot of trouble when I do the radio programme and I have to pronounce the name! I chickened out once and just called it ‘night flier‘. Thanks for reading the blog. Enjoy your new salvias 🙂💜

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  3. Interesting to read your review. It’s always good to get a recommendation of a nursery. I had a look a their website and they have a lovely selection of plants, salvias and more… this could get expensive!

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    • Thank you Sarah. Yes, isn’t it lovely to find a nursery that’s so passionate about what it grows and takes such care with deliveries. I’m looking at my 10 percent off voucher, and choosing some more as presents for friends. Lasts longer than a bunch of flowers. Thanks for reading the blog. I’ve just noticed the leaflet says “Tag us in your posts about our plants and be entered into our monthly draw where the winner will receive a free box of plants.”

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  4. Really interesting to read this, Karen, especially as the nursery is local to us – although I know they are not open to the public. I wonder if they would allow ‘click and collect’? I met and chatted to John at Hampton Court in 2019. Do you know how hardy these varieties are? I especially like the creamy one. I was surprised to read that your Phyllis Fancy was flowering on Christmas Day – mine does flower late but I have never managed to overwinter one and have to rely on cuttings – when do you cut yours back?

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    • Hello Cathy, My Phyllis’ Fancy is only just shooting now – well into June. I save cuttings of all salvias because we are on wet clay and at the top of a hill in an exposed garden. A nice sheltered garden perhaps would have more success over-wintering them. On the plus side, they are so easy to root from cuttings, and a pot full of 6 cuttings in a 4” pot doesn’t take up much room over winter. I lifted all the mother plants and overwintered them in the unheated poly tunnel under two layers of fleece. I cut them back in March. We didn’t have any frost until May, and then it was down to -4 every night for weeks. I have a rotation going on in the borders. I plant tulips in the holes left when I lift the salvia plants in autumn. And in June, when I lift the tulips, I place salvias in the holes again. It doesn’t disturb the surrounding perennials and seems to work well.

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    • Just read the leaflet and it says, sign up for the newsletter and invites to organised visits to the nursery. I should think plants would be for sale on those occasions. I fancy a trip to the nursery. Will report back! x

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