Simply The Best Herbs-August

IMG_3017 As someone who finds both peace and joy in gardening as well as beauty in the results, I feel there is no greater pleasure than being surrounded by abundant blooms.  ~Larry Hodgon

 

A fabulous summer to late summer long blooming herb, that is also a native plant in my garden, is Agastache foeniculum.  With its tall purple spikes, it can reach heights of 2-4 feet tall.  It is like a sugary sweet popsicle to the pollinators that throng to it all day.  You can spy the side of a bee on the picture above to the right of the flower.

Agastache foeniculum is native to much of north-central and northern North America where it grows in sunny somewhat drier conditions.

 As I profile this plant, I am combining two posts, Simply The Best-Herbs and Wildflower Tales.  I am linking in with both Diana@Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana, and Gail@Clay and Limestone who hosts Wildflower Wednesday which is this Wednesday.

 

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Name

Agastache foeniculum goes by many names:  Blue giant hyssop, Fragrant giant hyssop and Lavender hyssop.  But it’s most commonly used name is Anise hyssop.  

Although Anise hyssop and hyssop are in the same family (the mint family Lamiaceae), they are not closely related.  Hyssop is a species of semi-woody plants native from the the east Mediterranean to central Asia.  Where Anise hyssop is only found in North America. 

The genus Agastache describes the flower and comes from two Greek words agan  meaningmuch ” and stachys denoting an “ear of grain”.  These describe the flower.  Foeniculum comes from a Latin word meaning “hay”.

 

 

 About

In its native habitat, you can find this agastache in dry, open, semi-shaded fields, prairies and along roadsides.  It will tolerate shade ,but grows best in more sun.  It grows well in a variety of soils such as sandy, loam, clay-loam and somewhat rocky soil, but the soil must be well draining.  Even if the soil gets moist as long as it is not wet but free draining, the plant will do well.

Anise hyssop can tolerate dry soil once it is established but prefers the soil to be on the moist side.  Although it is the most drought resistant member of the mint IMG_3010family.

I grow it in the front gardens where it is hotter and drier, and it performs wonderfully although it will self seed, but not too aggressively.  I plan to try it in the meadow as well this coming year, and in the garden around the pond that is one of the driest in the back gardens.  In the back I am looser with plants that seed.  Deadhead this plant if you want to keep these flowers under control, and if you want to encourage more blooms.

Occasionally slugs and insects will feed on the plant creating holes. But it does not present serious insect or disease problems. Watch out for crown or root rot in poorly drained soils. And it can be susceptible to rust, powdery mildew and leaf spots although mine have never had this as I give them lots of space.

Agastache foeniculum dies back to the ground in winter.  Divide clumps in spring or fall, or start it easily from seed.  I also like to transplant the volunteers in fall.

 

Folklore

Anise hyssop was used  by many Native Americans.  Medicinally it was used to help with  cough, fevers, wounds and intestinal problems.

IMG_2797Native Americans also found many other uses for this native plant. The Cheyenne made it into a tea to relieve a “dispirited heart.” The Cree included the flowers in medicine bundles, and the Chippewa made it into a protective charm.

They say to plant it around your back door or add it to the back of the border for protection. It can also been dried and burned as incense. The essence of the flower is said to encourage honest communication and reduce anxiety before such things as exams or performances.

 

 

Uses

Culinary

Anise hyssop  is a wonderful native herb with many culinary uses.  The anise-scented leaves can be used to make herbal teas or jellies. The leaves can be added to green or fruit salads but in moderation as they can dry out the mouth.  The flower also is a wonderful garnish for ice tea.

The flowers are edible and look wonderful crumbled into salads.IMG_3011

The leaves have a minty licorice flavor that is sweet. You can steep  leaves in milk prior to making ice cream or adding it to your coffee.  It is used to flavor cakes, breads and also meat or poultry.  Seeds, minced flowers or dried leaves can be added to cookies or muffins for an anise flavor.

The purple flower spike is favored by bees who make a light fragrant honey from the plant’s nectar.

 

Medicinal

An infusion from the leaves is used in the treatment of colds, fevers and heart issues. When the infusion is cold, it is used to treat lung issues.  A poultice from the leaves and stems can be used to treat burns.

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Garden

Anise hyssop is lovely in fresh or dried arrangements. The dried flowers and leaves make a wonderful potpourri.  They also look great in a winter garden.  Add it to your wildflower gardens, herb gardens or meadows.

The flowers are highly attractive to butterflies, skippers, moths and hummingbirds.

Many bees visit this flower:  honey bees, bumblebees, digger bees, leaf-cutting bees, Halictid bees, and Masked bees, seeking out nectar or pollen.

While deer tend to avoid the anise flavored leaves, rabbits favor them.

 

 

Language of Flowers

In the “language of flowers”, hyssop symbolizes cleanliness and sacrifice.  It has been used since ancient times in rituals to clean holy places.

 

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Psalm 51:7

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

 

 

 

 

Summer is waning and fall will be here soon.  I hope you will join me for Seasonal Celebrations starting September 1st (I’ll actually post on the 31st).  Read more about it below.

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Come Join Us:

Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time.  I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether summer or winter or something else.  Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words starting September 1st.

And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme.  What lessons have you learned this past season of summer here in the North and winter in the South.  Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.The rules are simple.  Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations.  If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts.  Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post.  Make sure to include a link with your comment.

Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (the 22nd of September).  And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog.  Your post should be linked in the weekend before the equinox to give us enough time to include your post in our summary.  And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create).  The badges here can be used in your post.   So won’t you join in the celebration!!

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Next up on the blog:  Join me on the 31st for my Seasonal Celebrations post.  I hope you will join in the meme as August wanes.  With September’s arrival, I will do a wrap up of my August garden on the 2nd.  I also have a blogging anniversary on the 13th with a special post.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.  Most recent post is up.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.
 

63 comments

  1. Liz says:

    Hi Donna,

    Do you have problems with this surviving your winters? I thought Agastache wasn’t fully hardy (for the UK that is) and is the main reason I’ve never tried it. Or is this one hardy but others don’t tolerate the cold so well?

    I’ve always wanted to try it, as I do love the tall, thin plants similar to this such as Salvia, Veronicastrum, Persicaria.

    • Donna says:

      Liz this anise hyssop is hardy for my very cold and snowy winters. There are other agastache that are less hardy because they require more heat and less moisture. This particular agastache should work in your garden.

  2. HolleyGarden says:

    I’ve never tried agastache in my garden, but I am looking for more plants for the hummingbirds, so I will have to add this one to my list. Love the folklore. It makes me want to plant it around my back door, and make some tea with it!

    • Donna says:

      Holley you will love this plant. You may want to research a variety that will tolerate your TX weather as this will require water to establish.

  3. Beth says:

    I didn’t realize this was edible, Donna. Thanks for teaching us about agastache. Your posts are always beautifully illustrated as well as educational.
    Have a blessed day, Beth

  4. Susan Troccolo says:

    Hi Donna,

    Do you happen to know if this plant is related to the one we commonly call “Veronica”, also with purple spikes, but deeper in color. The leaves appear the same. I’m fond of my clumps of what I’ve called Veronica. But anyway, it sure does look like the Agastache Mexicana I’ve got in my herb beds and it has overwintered several times in our northern climate. (I was surprised to see it come back heartier than before.) It is in raised beds though, and maybe that helps.

  5. Cathy says:

    Lovely to read all about this herb. I planted some this spring but quite late as it was so wet… and then it was so dry! They didn’t get established and flower, but I think two have survived, so hope they will flower next year. I like the idea of steeping leaves in milk to add to coffee. I’ve done that with lavender before. Thanks for another great herb post!

  6. KL says:

    I have them growing in our front yard. I grew them from seed :-). I should go out and take pictures of our front yard — it is a neglected part of my garden as it is not as private as the back yard.

  7. catmint says:

    hi donna, I’ve seen this around, but never thought to try it. The leaves look like mint leaves, and it seems to grow in a similar way to mint, but be anise flavoured. I’m definitely going to grow it now I’ve read this post.

  8. Barbarapc says:

    This is one of my all-time favourites and I enjoyed your post – there were many things I knew little about. I adore its scent and the fact it blooms for such a long period of time. And, while it can be a short-lived plant, it always seeds itself so once you’ve planted it you’ve pretty well got it forever.

  9. Shirley says:

    Wonderful detail and research on Agastache. It is so beautiful and I love the scent and all its uses. It doesn’t love our exceptional heat.

    There are growers working on varieties that can do well here though so perhaps in the future.

    • Donna says:

      I wonder if the agastache mexicana would do well in your garden. I will hope for those growers to develop agastache that will grow for you too!!

    • Donna says:

      Catherine they are related as both are in the mint family. I need a bit more time out in the garden to recharge as my body is drained from work.

  10. Wife, Mother, Gardener says:

    Donna,
    You write such wonderfully detailed articles! I have tried growing Agastache a few times, and I have just not had any luck with them yet! I think that they dislike the way I plant all of my plants so tightly…. some things just cannot deal with being planted in a succession bed. When a have a bit more room, I look forward to trying again 🙂
    Happy end of August!
    ~Julie

    • Donna says:

      Julie thank you so much. They may like your strip garden as it gets sun and is drier. I hope you get the chance to try it. They are easy to grow from seed.

  11. Kalantikan/Andrea says:

    I love flowers with that kind of inflorescence, so when i first see the lupine I want to immediately come and see the close-up. However, we were on the bus in Sweden and i failed to do that. In your posts i can almost smell them here.

  12. Rose says:

    I love Agastache! I am partial to the more colorful hybrids, but none of them have thrived in my garden like this native has. It may not be as showy as the pink and orange varieties, but the bees certainly do love it.

    Funny note–I recently learned the correct pronunciation of this plant. I was calling it Au-gust-achee, when a gardener kindly corrected me and told me it was pronounced “Aghast-a-kee.” No wonder most people didn’t know what I was talking about:)

    • Donna says:

      That is a cute story. I am often embarrassed by my lack of pronunciation skills 🙂 I do love the pink and orange ones too but boy they do not like my cold winters. They prefer the high deserts.

  13. Gail says:

    I love the thoroughness of your posts~Especially the wildflowers, I always learn something new…I think I am going to plant it by the door! Good medicine is good!

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