Plant of the Month - October 2012

Those of you who are fans of our Archery Lawn will notice a magnificent line of purple and pink flowers stretching from the Green House to the Summer House (or vice versa depending on which direction you are going). 

If you have noticed it, congratulations - you have just had the pleasure of viewing October's Plant of the Month, Salvia Horminum.


Also known as Clary, this annual plant is native to an area extending from the Mediterranean to the Crimea and into Iran. The Latin name Salvia Horminum is synonymous with Salvia Viridis. The plant quickly grows up to 28 inches tall and about 12 inches wide. The brilliant purple-blue flowers last well as cut flowers or dried flowers.

The Clary, like Garden Sage, is not a native of Great Britain, having first been introduced into English cultivation in the year 1562. It is a native of Syria, Italy, southern France and Switzerland, but will thrive well upon almost any soil that is not too wet, though it will frequently rot upon moist ground in the winter.

Gerard describes and figures several varieties of Clary, under the names of Horminum and Gallitricum. He describes it as growing 'in divers barren places almost in every country, especially in the fields of Holborne neare unto Grayes Inne . . . and at the end of Chelsea.' 

Salmon, in 1710, in The English Herbal, gives a number of varieties of the Garden Clary, which he calls Horminum hortense, in distinction to H. Sylvestre, the Wild Clary, subdividing it into the Common Clary (H. commune), the True Garden Clary of Dioscorides (H. sativum verum Dioscorides), the Yellow Clary (Calus Jovis), and the Small or German Clary (H. humile Germanicum or Gallitricum alterum Gerardi). This last variety being termed Gerardi, indicates that Gerard classified this species when it was first brought over from the Continent, evidently taking great pains to trace its history, giving in his Herbal its Greek name and its various Latin ones. That the Clary was known in ancient times is shown by the second variety, the True Garden Clary, being termed Dioscoridis

Another variety of Horminum is given in The Treasury of Botany, called H. pyrenaicum, and described as 'a tufted perennial herb, with numerous root-leaves, simple almost leafless stems and purplish-blue flowers which grow in whorls of six, all turned the same way. It is a native of the temperate parts of Europe, on the mountains.' 

Planting / Propagation

The plant is propagated by seed, which should be sown in spring. When fit to move, the seedlings should be transplanted to an open spot of ground, a foot apart each way, if required in large quantities. After the plants have taken root, they will require no further care but to keep them free of weeds. The winter and spring following, the leaves will be in perfection. As the plant is a biennial only, dying off the second summer, after it has ripened seeds, there should be young plants annually raised for use. 

For earlier blooms, sow Salvia flower seeds indoors 10 weeks before last frost. Sow Salvia flower seed in starter trays and press the seed into the soil. Salvia flower seed needs light to germinate. When the frost season has passed, transplant the Salvia seedlings into the garden 12 - 18 inches apart in a sunny location. Or, sow Salvia flower seeds outdoors in spring after frost danger has passed and prepare soil by weeding it and loosening it. Lightly rake Salvia flower seeds into the soil and keep the seeds and young seedlings moist until well-established. Provide plenty of water in dry weather. Salvia plants grow best when provided moist, but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.

Medicinal Action and Uses

Salvia Horminum is not edible, but has a rich medicinal history, again we must emphasise that these uses are provided for historical entertainment only, and may actually be harmful. Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens Trust accepts no responsibility for the consequences of any self medication.

Antispasmodic, balsamic, carminative, tonic, aromatic, aperitive, astringent, and pectoral.
The plant has been used, both fresh and dry, either alone or with other herbs, as an infusion or a tincture.
It has mostly been employed in disordered states of the digestion, as a stomachic, and has also proved useful in kidney diseases. 

For violent cases of hysteria or wind colic, a spirituous tincture has been found of use, made by macerating in warm water for 14 days, 2 OZ. of dried Clary leaves and flowers, 1 OZ. of Chamomile flowers, 1/2 ox. bruised Avens root, 2 drachms of bruised Caraway and Coriander seeds, and 3 drachms of bruised Burdock seeds, adding 2 pints of proof spirit, then filtering and diluting with double quantity of water - a wineglassful being the dose.
Culpepper says:

'For tumours, swellings, etc., make a mucilage of the seeds and apply to the spot. This will also draw splinters and thorns out of the flesh.... For hot inflammation and boils before they rupture, use a salve made of the leaves boiled with hot vinegar, honey being added later till the required consistency is obtained.' He recommends a powder of the dry roots taken as snuff to relieve headache, and 'the fresh leaves, fried in butter, first dipped in a batter of flour, egges, and a little milke, serve as a dish to the table that is not unpleasant to any and exceedingly profitable.'
The juice of the herb drunk in ale and beer, as well as the ordinary infusion, has been recommended as very helpful in all women's diseases and ailments. 

In Jamaica, where the plant is found, it was much in use. It was considered it cooling and cleansing for ulcers, and also used it for inflammations of the eyes. A decoction of the leaves boiled in coco-nut oil was used by them to cure the stings of scorpions. Clary and a Jamaican species of Vervain form two of the ingredients of an aromatic warm bath sometimes prescribed there with benefit. 


Things are a bit thin on the folklore front with this plant, in face the only thing I could find was an anonymous source that states that the plant flourishes best in household gardens where women are the dominant force. So there.

Come and check out this wonderful plant at the Gardens today!

Thank you:

Gordon Sammons

Creative Commons Licence
The photographs by Graham High are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


  1. I'm so glad you've featured this as plant of the month. The display of these flowers at the Gardens at the moment is wonderful and now I can put a name to them!!

    Great flowers for pollinators too - lots of bees :)

    Another really interesting post Graham and I especially like the Folklore piece :)

    1. Thanks Caroline. Sorry I've been out of the loop with your blog. I'm recovering from a hand injury that makes using a computer keyboard rather painful. :(

      Yes loads of Bees about on these plants, on the original full scale photographs they can be seen in action quite easily, but with not so much with the reduced images. If you are about on Saturday at the Apple Event, I'll be helping out in the coffee shop. You're welcome to pop in and say hello. :)