SALVIA X Jamensis / Microphylla ( ‘Hot Lips’ )
This aromatic shrub sage is a perennial, tolerant of frost, heat & drought. In winter, thin wiry stems of Salvia Hot Lips are covered with a dense cloud of small oval leaves. From May to October tiny dancing RED & WHITE flowers appear in pairs at the stem tips. These may also be white only or red only, depending on the weather.
The plant originates from near the village of Jame in the Coahuila Province of Mexico, high up in the mountains – 6,500 to 9,800 feet. It is hardy to at least 25 degrees F.
For months this was a mystery shrub in a nearby front garden, its quirky flowers drawing in many bees. Then I found it on PAGHAT’S GARDEN, a website from Seattle, USA, where the climate seems to match ours in Highbury.
Paghat says the leaves of this salvia turn wine red in winter in Seattle, and recommends cutting it back in February or March time. ‘ It made it through its first winter without any trouble at all, despite that we had a record-breaking coldsnap, so I knew it was here to stay. It didn’t mind temperatures into the high teens (fahrenheit), and it didn’t mind our rainy autumns.’
‘By winter’s end shrub sages in general in our zone begin to look tawdry and frost-damaged, and Hot Lips in particular is semi-deciduous at best. If not cut back by February or March, shrub sages look increasingly awful the rest of spring, so really must be given a hard pruning in late winter so they can start the spring all fresh.
If not hard pruned it will have fewer flowers the following summer’. http://paghat.com/salviahotlips.html
William Dyson, Head Gardener at Great Comp Gardens, in The English Garden Magazine, says the ‘Hampton Hack Prune‘ is the best care for Mexican Salvias.
video – tutorial by William Dyson, pruning Mexican Salvias https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_2q7oMr0nE
Dave’s Garden https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/57961/( 33 positive responses from gardeners & 2 negatives)
“The leaves have a pleasant blackcurrant smell when bruised: Salvia x Jamensis is sometimes known as Blackcurrant Sage. The flowers taste pleasantly sweet and small numbers can be used to decorate salads and the leaves can be used fresh or dried as a flavouring.
A herbal tea can be made from the leaves, called ‘mirto de montes’ (after the name commonly used for the plant in Mexico, meaning ‘myrtle of the mountains’). Medicinally, the leaves can be used to reduce fever.”
jeremy bartlett’s LET IT GROW blog http://www.jeremybartlett.co.uk/2015/11/09/salvia-hotlips/
Many front gardens in our neighbourhood feature flowers & shrubs that are red or white. Red or white flowers, red leaves or stems. One never knows if the gardeners are football fans who back the local club, Arsenal FC, in its home colours, or have always preferred this colour combination.
2017 – Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ in Our Highbury Garden
Our own Salvia Hot Lips came from Morden Hall Park Garden Centre in South London, a gift from Anne. It is aromatic, like floor cleaner – surely the slugs, snails, & mice in our garden will be repelled.
August 9th – Many flowers & buds, photographed a few days ago, are gone. Probably mice; there are no snail slime trails. The plant’s aroma was no mouse deterrent.
August 20th – After ALL of the flowers had disappeared, Salvia Hot Lips was dug out of the ground. It now sits in a pot on the kitchen sink awaiting developments. Sometimes the wildlife can be a problem.
Got a wall basket from Homebase – a cast iron half circle with a flat back. Hopefully a new position will free Hot Lips from the attentions of mice & snails.
October 30th – Hot Lips’ new basket hangs on the side wall of the back extension by the boiler outlet. The house’s heat is behind it; currents of warm air play over its upper stems. Morning sun falls on it & new flowers have now appeared. Although mice can climb brick walls, removing the plant from the ground seems to have worked. No raiding parties have been launched up the brickwork to reach Hot Lips. It is safe for now.
November – Neighbours with the most flourishing Hot Lips have cut theirs back to two feet. The next door neighbour has kept their plant unpruned.
November 23rd – Our Hot Lips on the wall still has long-lasting blooms at its stemtips & is unbothered by wind. Neighbours with the most rampant Hot Lips have given theirs another chop, down to about a foot now.
6th March 2018 – After a week of bitter cold wind and snow (The Beast from the East), Hot Lips is still alive in the basket.
21st July 2018 – Hot Lips endured the long drought & desert heatwave that swept over all of Europe. But, even with daily watering, the weather finally took its toll. The plant lost many leaves & flowers, & looked unhealthy & desperate. It was moved to an old Ryman’s office wastepaper bin. Given a mix of fresh soil, mycorrhizal fungi & fertilizer nodules, it seems to be recovering. New flowers now twinkle round the plant. Its base has become quite woody.
7th Sept 2018. Hot Lips doing well, flowering in September sunshine. Its Ryman paper bin is perhaps too exposed by the path. We are advised to plant aromatic plants such as lavender near walkways, so brushing against them will trigger a rush of scent. This plant’s stems are brittle and break easily, so its best position may not be edging a path.
2019 Salvia Hot Lips, now in a square green Laura Ashley pot from Alexandra Palace Garden Centre, did well this season. Its longer, woody stems put off any rodent attacks on the flowers.
2020 Hotlips spent the winter on the bay windowsill, snuggled into the house’s warmth. It has been moved to the eastern end of the garden, where its flowers are now red & white; they had been solid red until the end of June.