Salvias are naturally beautiful and flowering herbs belonging to the mint family. Since the 1970s, these herbs have been popular among people who take pleasure in gardening. In fact, gardening has become a favourite as well as prevalent pastime all over Europe and places where people communicate in English. People who grow salvias find these plants steadfast and attractive and, generally, they can be grown without much difficulty. Fast and dependable transportation has currently made it possible to introduce several salvia species as well as selections to the horticulture world from their natural surroundings.
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There is an assortment of salvia species, counting perennial, biennial and annual herbs, while some of them are wooded sub-shrubs. Similar to other plants belonging to the Lamiaceae family, the stems of salvia are characteristically angled. Typically the leaves are whole, however occasionally they are divided pinnately or jagged. The flowering stalks of salvias produce little bracts, unlike the leaves at the base. In a number of species of salvias the bracts are attractive and ornamental.
The blooms of salvia plants appear in panicles or racemes, and usually produce an attractive display. The color of the flowers varies from red to blue, while white and yellow blooms are not very common. Usually, the calyx has resemblance to bells or tubes. They do not have any bearded throat and are separated into two parts (also known as lips). The upper lip is either a whole entity or may have three teeth, while the lower lip is cleft into two parts. Often, the corollas of salvias are two-lipped and have the shape of a claw. The stamens of salvias are two condensed structures having two-celled anthers - while the upper cell is productive, the lower lip is flawed. The styles of the flowers are divided into two clefts. Salvias bear fruits that are smooth nutlets having an oblong or ovoid shape. Fruits produced by several salvia species are coated with mucilaginous substances.
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The stems, leaves, and flowers of several salvias are covered with hairs (also known as trichomes) that help in diminishing water loss by these species. Occasionally, these trichomes or hairs have a glandular structure and they release volatile oils that usually emit a distinct scent. If you brush or rub these hairs, the cells enclosing the volatile oils rupture secreting the oils. As a result of this, these salvia species do not attract foraging animals and a number of insects.
Noted Roman scientist as well as historian Gaius Plinius Secundus, popularly known as Pliny the Elder was the first to use the name Salvia - a Latin term. The name has its origin in the Latin words 'salvare', which denotes 'to save or heal', and 'salvus', which means 'whole or uninjured' referring to numerous saliva species possessing remedial properties. In fact, Pliny's keen interest in plants is very functional and his work or encyclopaedic anthology titled 'Natural History' includes salvias from the plant world. In his botanical writings Pliny more or less always dealt with solely the agricultural as well as therapeutic characteristics of various plants.
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Herbal literature dating back to the ancient as well as renaissance Europe also includes lots of information regarding the good attributes of sages. These are generally illustrated by means of engravings on wood or woodcuts. These illustrations not only contain the therapeutic recipes, but magical charms and enchantment are explained in details. In fact, the common name of the herb sage has its origin in England and perhaps it is an altered form of the old French term 'sauge'. Sage particularly denotes the herb Salvia officinalis, a plant that was used extensively in ancient times in the form of a home remedy.
As mentioned earlier, salvias belong to the plants of the mint family called Lamiaceae and they constitute the major genus of the mint family. People have been using the aromatic foliage of several salvias for more than 20 centuries to heal the bodies as well as minds in several different regions of the world. As per their growth habitat, salvias may be described as annual, biennial or perennial plants. In addition, they may also be classified as deciduous or evergreen shrubs. A number of salvias species are climbing plants, but they are devoid the organs that support climbing activities like tendrils. This genus can be found growing all over the sub-tropical and temperate regions of the globe, especially at elevated places at 11,000 feet (3,400 meters) above sea level or even higher. Salvias grow at temperature levels that are similarly great. Not only is the multifaceted as well as rich diversity of salvias marvellous, but even the discovery of some of these plants' curative or calming attributes by man is something equally amazing.
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Now the question is what makes a gardener certain that a plant is actually salvia. Well, there is a very simple array of characteristics that can be observed to ascertain the identity of this genus. First and foremost, see if the plant's leaves are opposite to each other and if it has a square stem, which turns round as the plant ages. Also closely observe a single flower of the plant. The shape of the corolla (colourful tube) may differ, but it should have two lips of different lengths - the lip on the upper side has a variable shape, while the lip on the lower side is generally spreading. In addition, the calyx too must have two lips. Besides, the upper lip may be a whole or have two or three teeth, while the lower lip of saliva generally has two teeth. Flowers of all salvia plants will always have two productive stamens and at times they may also have two infertile stamens. The infertile stamens are known as staminodes. The plant generally produces four seeds.
The existence of more than 900 salvia species has been detected all over the world. While nearly 50 per cent of these species are found in North and South America, this genus is totally absent in Australia and Asia. In fact, the cumulative figure may increase by some hundreds if we also take into account the natural hybrids (formed from the garden and wild varieties) as well as the cultivated hybrids. In addition, there are some selected cultivars, which raise the total figure further.
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In fact, it has been difficult for botanists to consider all salvias as a solitary work, as they occur in such large numbers and also because they appear in so many dissimilar native places. However, we are fortunate that the existing floras as well as monographs for some of the geographical regions correspond to several years of work undertaken by experienced authorities.
As far as the culture of all the plants belonging to this species is concerned, it is possible to make only some fundamental rules, if any. Growing salvias on sodden clay soil will destroy the plants and also result in their rapid demise owing to disease or drowning. It is essential to grow salvias in soils having quick drainage and those that put off problems related to fungus attack as well as encourage air circulation all around the root cavities, as they ensure the health of these herbs. Usually it is recommended that you grow all species of salvias in soils that crumble easily (friable). In addition, special attention needs to be given to the plants that require very fast drainage and also to the species that have a preference for humus or lime.
While salvias are generally not inclined to diseases, they occasionally fall prey to attacks by fungi and consequently wilt and wither away. The general health of the plants in your garden will improve provided there is an excellent air circulation. In other words, salvias grow excellently in airy places. The volatile oils as well as other compounds, which emit aromas, enclosed by the salvias promote good health, in addition to warding off predating animals like deer and birds, snails, insects, slugs and butterflies.
All varieties of salvias, including perennials, biennials and annuals are propagated by their seeds, which are directly sown into their permanent positions outdoors. It is important to always protect the seedlings from birds. The seeds of salvias that are of wooded perennials, herbaceous perennials and shrubs variety are sown outdoors between the later part of spring to early summer, giving the plants sufficient time to establish their roots before the first frost of the season. These plants are also grown from their cuttings, especially when you want to establish the new plants quickly. Usually the shrubs and woody perennials are propagated through cuttings, as they respond much better to this mode of propagation.