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Live and Learn--Salvia Seeds and the USPS

Friday, February 24, 2023


 Dearest readers and supporters,

I never dreamt I'd have to write this post, but I've received two photos from people who ordered the Salvia patens seeds from my last post, and in both of them, the seeds have been crushed. In one case, to an absolute powder.

Below is how the seeds looked when I packed them. There is a piece of card stock behind them, and I double-wrapped the plastic baggies in corrugated kraft paper to protect them. 

I bought stamps and put them on by hand so they wouldn't go through a postage meter. 

What I didn't know is that each envelope would still go through a machine that flattened it and crushed the seeds.

These seeds, in another photo from a customer, aren't as badly crushed, but I still see debris that shouldn't be there.

Just goes to show you that the sweetest dreams can always be crushed, when you don't know what happens after something leaves your hands. My friend Cynni, who used to work at my local post office, explained to me that I should have put two first class stamps on each envelope, and asked that they be hand-canceled, not sent through the machine. She would have been happy to help, but she doesn't work there any more. Oh, how I miss Cynni.

If only I'd known. I don't even want to think about the disappointment of seeds, so lovingly gathered and packed and received by you, that won't be coming up. For you, and for me. 

I could grow more this summer, collect them next fall, and send replacements to anyone whose seeds were crushed in this shipment. But life is so short.

 Better: I can try to get my hands on some replacement seeds, and send them out as soon as I can, so you can still start them this winter. I'm leaning toward that solution, but it depends on how many packets arrived crushed. If your seeds arrived crushed, broken, or otherwise not perfect,

please send your request for replacement to 


 WITH YOUR MAILING ADDRESS, and I will start a list to replace the seeds. I really want you to get them started as soon as possible,  so I'm going to make that happen.

I repeat: PLEASE SEND YOUR ADDRESS with your replacement request.

If your seeds arrived intact, please email me anyway and let me know! I need to know how many 
of the envelopes got crushed, and whether any viable (i.e. intact) seeds survived the postal machinery.

Live and learn. And if you screw up, make good on it.


The Bluest Flower: Salvia patens SOLD OUT

Monday, February 20, 2023


In September of 2018, I fell back in love with a plant I had grown way back in the early 1990's, when there were a couple of great greenhouses still operating in my area and more cool plants were available. Salvia patens, or Gentian Sage, or Salvia "Blue Angel" it what you will; this plant has The Blue of All Blues in the largest Salvia flowers I know of. Gentian blue, delphinium blue, royal, true BLUE.

Native to Mexico, its species name, patens, means "spreading." And it does spread, sending up multiple stalks on a semi-prostrate central stem, to form a delicious mound. 
It blooms more or less continuously throughout late summer, right up to frost. 

Hazelhurst's Salvia patens plants, 09/2018

Here I was in a garden at an estate called Hazelhurst north of Wausau, Wisconsin in late September 2018, beholding this treasured plant once again. My heart beating almost out of my chest, I peeked into the leafy calyx of a spent blossom. And there beheld four seeds! Carefully, I extracted them, then two more, and folded them into a bit of paper in my pocket to carry home.

Being excited, I planted them too early that winter, and I got one plant in my greenhouse that lived through in a spindly way until the spring. I set it out and it made some seeds in the fall of 2019. I've been collecting seeds and growing Salvia patens since then. For the last three winters, I've made sure to dig up some plants to bring into the greenhouse, to overwinter on its cold, but not freezing, floor. Here's a winter rosette that came up from some roots I dug. It'll just perk along like this all winter until it warms up enough to be planted out. I'm so glad I saved a rootball over; that'll jumpstart my flowers come spring. Note that it is on the floor of the greenhouse, which keeps it from trying to grow very much. I need to keep it semi-dormant until closer to the time I can plant it out (mid-May). 

I'm hooked on that blue. Overwintered roots; seeds; I want all the insurance I can get, that I'll have this plant in my garden from here on out. AND--they are highly deer-resistant! Yep, one more reason to love them. The four maurauding deer who have invaded my gardens actually ate around them last fall! The foliage is strongly scented, being in the mint family, and both hairy and sticky, and those three things tend to deter deer from eating them.

I suspect their primary pollinator is bumblebees, though there were always hummingbirds hanging around that bed, too.

Last summer of 2022, I got serious about collecting seeds from my plants.  The plants didn't even begin to set seed until September. I suspect they tired of me poking around in their ovaries, but it was hard to wait until they were ripe! Here's a split calyx with four ripening seeds inside. They're big, like the flowers.

Ripe seeds turn black. Notice the size of that flower! Just huge.

Generally, you'll get two seeds per fertilized flower. Four if you're really lucky.

Gentian sage is the definition of precious and rare, at least to me. I so enjoyed harvesting the seeds, checking every day to see which ones had ripened.

I planted some seeds on January 13, and they started coming up about 7-10 days later. They have two large heart-shaped cotyledons. Between those two hearts springs a little plant with opposite leaves. I should have nice little plants to set out by mid-May. 

These are three-week-old plants. They're very satisfying to plant and grow from seed.

You really don't need a greenhouse. They'll sprout from seed on a sunny windowsill. When it warms up real good and they're big and strong, plant them out in sun or part shade and keep them moist until they're well-established. I'm sure they'd grow in containers as well. The mature plant should be about 2' high by 2-3' across by September, so space accordingly! It lives over the winter in zone 8-10, but should be treated as an annual (whose roots you can overwinter in the pot in a bright cool spot) anywhere else.

I love this plant so much I want to share it. BUT I AM SOLD OUT as of 7:40 pm Feb. 20 2023.  I am offering a set of six seeds for $20. Which includes shipping. This is steep, I know, but they're rare; I am not a professional producer, and these plants are durn stingy with their seeds! I'll gather more this coming fall if there seems to be demand for them. I don't know about you, but I NEED these huge lippy blue flowers in my garden. 

If you'd like to buy a packet, please go to  and make your payment of $20 via the PayPal link there. 

Where it says "Add a Message," please provide your mailing address!
If you don't give me your address I can't send the seeds.

If you run into problems, please email me at juliezickefooseATgmailDOTcom and provide your mailing address.   I'll send the seeds by US mail. 

I'm sorry, I won't be accepting checks by mail for this offer; I suspect they're going to go too fast.

Again, you must provide me your MAILING ADDRESS in the "Add a Message" section on Paypal.
 I can't send you the seeds without that. If you miss the "Add a Message" notice on Paypal as you make your payment, email me at juliezickefooseATgmailDOTcom with your address, and you'll get your seeds.

When they're gone,  and I suspect they will go fast, I'll immediately update the blogpost to indicate that and put a note in the comments.  SOLD OUT Evening Feb. 20. And I'll grow more this summer. :) Those wee seedlings have some work to do!

 I'll put the proceeds toward the glass lean-to greenhouse I've been dreaming about for, well, all my life. :)

The Groanhouse has had a ten-year run, and it's served me well, but it is disintegrating.
Time to think bigger and much, much better. 

I'm still trying to wrangle people to come together to dig footers, pour a new pad, build the foundation, and assemble the glass, which will be delivered in a kit from Botanical Greenhouse Builders LLC, out of Rocky River, Ohio. The goal is to have a real greenhouse by frost time (Halloween) 2023.  Being my own general contractor for this project been a big learning experience, and I won't lie, it's been very frustrating to try to line up so many different crafstpeople, but I am nothing if not determined.  I am still trying to get this thing pulled together and rolling, after two months of steady pressure. 

If, being optimistic, I've got twenty more years to live in this wonderful house, I want to walk out of my bedroom and into a real greenhouse, one that's insulated and sturdy and won't need to be held together with ten rolls of Gorilla Tape, applied each fall. This, I have earned. 


A Batty Winter is 2023

Saturday, February 11, 2023


It's time for a bat update. It's a bit much for Instagram and Facebook, and besides, I want the good stuff to go on the blog which is searchable and expandable. 2023 has been a surprisingly batty winter, with five clients coming in since right before Christmas. The weather has been pretty mild, save for a weeklong cold snap that sent night temperatures into the single digits. I emptied the Groanhouse, as is my wont, brought everything into the house, and hunkered down for the duration, only putting the plants back when it had warmed up considerably. And then the bats started coming into heated spaces around Marietta, and the pleas for help started, and I had to answer.

Jolie Blonde is possibly the cutest of the five (a dead heat, really, since they're all cute in their own ways) and she's also very calm and wicked smart. So far she's the only self-feeder I have, but I haven't really given them all ample chances to learn, to be truthful. She was seen clinging for days to an exposed brick wall behind People's Bank in Marietta, Ohio, and taken in on December 9. It took five days to get her to take mealworms. I gave her nestling bird formula until she was strong enough to chew. She came in at 17 gm, which is low normal for a big brown bat.  She weighs 19 with an empty tank now, so I have to watch  that she doesn't overeat and get too fat to fly. I can tell the second I pick a bat up whether it's in good weight or not. Kinda cool. I have marked the inside of each bat's right ear with a different color of acrylic paint. Jolie is orange. After three weeks in hibernation, she was not hungry, because she had eaten all the worms in her dish when the weather warmed up! 

This is Poppy. Pale pink in her ear marks her. She was found sleeping peacefully in an attic on January 21. Homeowners said nope so she was brought to me. Sigh. I wish they would have just let her leave come spring. But say "bat" and 99.99 percent of people say, "Not in my house/attic/basement/chimney!" She was in good shape at 17 gm, hibernating normally.

Carmelo is my only male. He's also the darkest, a deep espresso brown. And he's a sweetheart. He was found inside, hanging over the door at a local tattoo parlor. People who create tattoo art are generally very sympathetic toward bats, snakes, spiders and other fauna from which many people recoil. I like that about tattoo artists. Maybe it's because they wind up drawing a lot of those kinds of creatures in their work; maybe it's a more accepting and open state of mind. I love the way Carmelo snuffles around looking for another worm at the end of this clip.

These clips are very short because I am feeding the bats and making the videos all with my right hand while holding the animal in my left. I can only make a short clip because I have to pull my tight leather glove off my right hand with my teeth to make the video. I pull the glove off, give the bat a worm on tweezers, and then I have maybe ten seconds to make a video before the bat wants another worm. Then I pull the glove back on with my teeth. This is difficult to do through a surgical mask, but I have perfected the move. Haha! Needless to say I much prefer having Liam make the videos. 

More bats and some good news in my next post!

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