Plants contribute to our lives in many ways -- as sources of beauty, building materials, clothing, food, fragrance, medicine and oxygen. Add hope and fulfillment to the list, because that is what three abundantly blooming Salvias from Australia add to the lives of seriously ill children.
These plants form the Wish Collection -- Wendy's Wish Sage (Salvia x 'Wendy's Wish'), Ember's Wish Sage (S. x 'Ember's Wish') and Love and Wishes Sage (S. x 'Love and Wishes'). Flowers by the Sea is one of the first online nurseries in America to sell all three Wish Collection sages. Although we have grown and sold Wendy's Wish for a number of years, Ember's Wish and Love and Wishes are new at FBTS.
A portion of the sales of all three plants benefits the Australian Make-a-Wish Foundation, an organization that fulfills requests for children in that nation who have life-threatening, chronic illnesses.
What Wendy Found in her Garden
The Wish Collection started with Salvia enthusiast Wendy Smith, who discovered an unusual sage seedling in her Victoria, Australia, garden in 2005. Smith discovered the plant beneath her Lolly's Mexican Sage (S. mexicana 'Lolly').
Smith's garden also contained Buchanan's Sage (S. buchananii), Chiapas Sage (S. chiapensis), Purple Majesty Sage (S. guaranitica 'Purple Majesty') and Scarlet Sage (S. splendens) -- all of which have been identified as possible parent plants for Wendy's Wish. In particular, its flowers have the deep magenta color and size of S. buchananii and the dramatic calyxes of S. splendens.
Australian Salvia specialist Sue Templeton helped Smith name the plant and introduce it to PGA's plant patenting organization, Plants Management Australia.
Smith supported the goals of the Australian foundation, which was inspired by the American Make-A-Wish foundation. Consequently, when arranging for patenting of her plant, Smith specified that a portion of each sale be given to Make-a-Wish Australia.
Since that initial act of generosity, Smith's famous seedling has led to a growing pay-it-forward movement in horticulture. Now, purchases of the three closely related Wish sages allow gardeners worldwide to contribute to improving children's lives.
Ember's Wish: A Star of a Sport Is Born
Ember's Wish Sage was derived from what is known botanically as a sport -- a naturally occurring plant part that looks significantly different from the rest of a plant. Sports usually occur on woody species, such as trees and bushes.
All three Wish sages are subshrubs, which means that they combine some woodiness with perennial soft herbaceous growth.
Plant Growers Australia (PGA) discovered a bright coral-flowered sport on a magenta-flowered Wendy's Wish. The Australian online publication Garden Drum reports that PGA was "keen to support Make-a-Wish Australia."
In addition to requiring licensed growers to pay a portion of each sale of the plant to the foundation, PGA further supported Make-a-Wish by auctioning naming rights at a fundraising ball for the organization. This raised thousands of dollars.
Paul and Lyn Shegog won the auction. By combining Emma and Brett into Ember, the Shegogs named the plant for their two teenagers who died from a genetic disorder. Garden Drum notes that the name also reflects the sage's fiery blossoms.
Love and Wishes: Retirement Gift
Deep purple calyxes support the magenta-purple, tubular blossoms of Love and Wishes Sage. The flowers and calyxes brighten dark stems and contrast dramatically with mid-green foliage.
John Fisher of Orange, Australia -- a suburb of Sydney on the Pacific coast -- knew what he wanted to do once retired from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Among other pursuits, Fisher had spent his career supporting agriculture and natural resource management.
Fisher planned to explore nature in a different way -- through plant breeding. He developed Love and Wishes Sage, which has red-purple to purple flowers, from a mutation of Wendy's Wish Sage according to its U.S. plant patent. The National Gardening Association Plants Database notes that its cultivar name is SER-WISH.
The result is a lovely, abundantly flowering sage, which Fisher named in honor of its parent plant and Make-a-Wish.
Hummingbirds & Dreamy Drifts of Wishes
Sages that grow from Canada to South America are well known for attracting hummingbirds, which are Western Hemisphere birds. It is a rarity for hummingbirds to visit Eastern Hemisphere sages planted in western gardens, but the Wish Collection buzzes steadily with hummers.
In coastal areas with moderate temperatures, all the Wish Collection sages grow well in full sun. However, they appreciate some shade in areas with hot summers. These are adaptable sages that thrive in many kinds of soil, but good drainage is always helpful for Salvias. Also, although Wish Collection sages do fine with average watering based on local conditions, they are water-loving plants.
All three look pretty in containers or mixed together in drifts that give the landscape a dreamy, natural look. Sunset Western Garden Collection, which licenses Wish Collection growers in the U.S., notes that the flowers of these sages don't fade or need deadheading. They are easy-care plants.
How Make-a-Wish Formed
The international Make-a-Wish movement began in America in 1980 when two law enforcement officers engaged in an Arizona stakeout discussed a child -- the son of one officer's friend in Chicago -- who had terminal leukemia but longed to become a police officer.
They found a way to make Chris Greicius' dream come true complete with a kid-sized police uniform, badge and helicopter ride before he died at age 7. The officers, Frank Shankwitz and Scott Stahl, flew to Chicago for his funeral, which honored Chris as a fallen officer.
Word of this extraordinary experience spread to Phoenix where the first Make-a-Wish Foundation formed in November 1980.
Wishes and Questions
Children don't stop dreaming just because they face great odds from serious illness. When some of their wishes come true, it lightens their load and supports all who love them. Those who sell or buy Wish Collection sages help make dreams bloom one plant at a time.
If you have any questions about Wendy's Wish, Ember's Wish or Love and Wishes, please feel free to call or email us at Flowers by the Sea. We're glad to help you, the Make-a-Wish movement and children who need an emotional boost.