The variation in quantity and quality of the essential oils of garden sage (Salvia officinalis L.) collection, cultivated at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Gatersleben, Germany, was studied. The aerial parts of 10 individual plants per accession (119 accessions) were collected at the beginning of the flowering period in two consecutive years from the same experimental field, and essential oil (EO) content and composition were analysed. The EO quantity was in the ranges 0.3-2.2% w/w in the first year and 0.9-2.5% w/w in the second year. The highest EO content was observed in a Croatian accession. The mean EO quantities in the second year were 1-1.6-fold higher than in the first year, and the correlation between the two years' EO content was 0.77. The essential oil composition was not variable from 2007 to 2008 and was comparable to results already published, with the exception of two accessions from Romania with viridiflorol as dominant compound and low amounts of alpha- and beta-thujone, representing a new Salvia officinalis chemotype which would be ideal and safer for drinks and meals. Copyright (C) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.