The Agastache plants have been laughing in the face of weather that most have called miserable since the beginning of May. The heat combined with no rain was fierce. Then June shows up where we have rainfalls that total four to seven inches a day and although temps are in the 80s the indexes say it feels like 94 plus.
It's been just over 4 years since I last wrote about the Agastache. It comes with a lot of common names like anise hyssop, giant hyssop, and hummingbird mint. Though I knew it brought in hummingbirds I have never been in the right place at the right time with the camera. This year is different.
Though I have been touting these plants to you, I fear you are still having a hard time finding them and I am laying much of the blame squarely on our shoulders as the consumer. Our blame is that we still will not buy a plant that is not in bloom. This means that many of the best pollinator plants we could buy for the landscape aren't available because both the broker and the grower know there is a chance, they will never get sold.
There is great hope however as the pollinator frenzy is still raging. Gardeners want beautiful flowers that bring in the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds and there is none better than the Agastache and its hybrids. Varieties like Blue Fortune, Black Adder, Blue Boa, and Violet Vision are champions. They are beautiful, sturdy in the face of weather and will be perennial in zones 6-10 providing they don't sit in a wet winter soggy bog.
Both Blue Fortune and Black Adder are hybrids of the U.S. native Agastache foeniculum and Korean Agastache rugosa. This cross has given us what I call perennials of participation. You will want to visit them often, even get a chair and stake out a position to watch and enjoy. The pollinator activity will amaze you, and for those of you who consider yourself to be a culinary artist, these are plants that will thrill with flavor.
Blue Boa has now won my heart completely over. It won the "Too Good to Be True Award" at Colorado State University perennial trials. It was also a winner in North Carolina State University. It was terrific at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Garden in Savannah and is winning at The Garden Guy's house.
Blue Boa is an unknown cross but absolutely stunning with blue-violet flowers and dark green foliage. The larger flowers also attract hummingbirds and have a tantalizing fragrance. Mine is at 3 feet now towering over coneflowers and partnered with Vermillionaire cuphea. Thankfully Proven Winners has added this plant to their repertoire.
The last one we planted in Savannah was Agastache Violet Vision. This one is a unique cross with the Korean, A. rugosa and A. cusickii that is native to the western United States. It won best of Penn State Trials and features lush violet flowers on a more compact plant all the while serving as a magnet for bees and butterflies.
To grow yours, select a site in full sun for best blooming and to keep the plants compact and better branched. The soil should be fertile and well drained. Wet feet will spell doom for the anise hyssop during the winter, so incorporate organic matter to loosen the soil or plant on raised beds. You will want to space plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
The summer is just getting started and you have a long time to enjoy color in the landscape made more beautiful with a continual visitation of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden." Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)