I originally got seeds from Christine Yeo, who was 99% certain that it was the real S. hians. My seeds germinated, and as is usually the case with Oriental species, it did not flower before the 2nd year. When Christine saw the flowers, she was convinced that it had hybridised...but I am not so sure.
I also obtained seeds from NZ from a S. hians which came from Alaska (?), this was supposed to be the real thing also. BUT, this beautiful plant seems to be a hybrid with flava var. megalantha (or bulleyana...call it what you will) as the foliage is so similar. But the flowers are an amazing combination of white and purple...but the white is on the upper lip! I think I sent a pic of this to the forum last year. I just wish that these oriental species/hybrids had a longer flowering season.
I now have another species, Salvia bowleyana...foliage similar to S. miltiorrhiza, but the flowers are different...very dull and uninteresting from a distance, but rather beautiful at close-up. Will try ro send a photo this week.
In essence, yes re: condoms...the morning glory folks do this to prevent cross pollination by tying off the flower before it opens. Pretty tedious work I must admit if you do every flower that way on a plant.
Looking forward to the photos of your other plants, Robin!
If it is not Salvia hians, it is a hybrid or closely related. The one I got from P. Kohli & Sons of Srinagar was very similar, but the flowers were a bit bicolored, with one patch bluer than the other.