Blue Fortune Agastache, or anise hyssop, is causing quite a stir in our garden. We have dozens — some partnered with TigerEye Gold rudbeckia, others with the scarlet milkweed — but believe me when I say 3- to 4-foot-tall incredible spikes of blue bottle brush-like flowers are indeed stealing the show.
Blue Fortune is a wonderful anise hyssop hybrid. The parents are our native Agastache foeniculum and the Korean Agastache rugosa. The resulting cross is simply amazing — it will become a must-have plant for the future. Herb lovers have been growing anise hyssop for years and relishing in both its culinary properties, and its beauty and tough nature. Beekeepers and connoisseurs treasure the honey produced from anise hyssop, and this cross keeps all of the great traits from the parents.
The botanical genus Agastache is related to other well-known garden plants, including salvia and coleus. This great perennial is hardy from zones 3 to 9, meaning virtually everyone can grow it. Staggeringly high temperatures don’t even cause a whimper in the plant or its prolific flower production.
The plants in our garden will easily reach 36 inches tall plus. With this height we group them in informal clusters to serve as a terrific backdrop for the complementary colors. Though we have gone complementary with yellows and oranges, pink, purple, and dark blue would all look equally stunning.
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. We removed tight compacted clay and brought in a prepared landscape mix.
They are easy to grow from seeds that germinate in seven to 14 days. We chose to transplant 3-inch liners or plugs in gallon pots in late February and planted in the landscape in early April, spacing them 12 to 18 inches apart.
Though the plant is drought tolerant, watering during prolonged dry periods will pay dividends with added flower production. Feed during spring growth using a light application of a slow-release fertilizer. Another application in mid-summer will keep the plants at peak for the fall.
Blue Fortune responds well to cutting back, so feel free to do so if the plants begin to look a little leggy or you simply wish they were bushier. Once frost damage has occurred, cut back and add a protective layer of mulch.
Blue Fortune is a great choice for butterfly and nature gardens or backyard wildlife habitats. We are seeing every kind of bee and several butterfly species feasting on the nectar, and it would make a great lower-level plant to buddleia which also attracts butterflies. The flowers, with their licorice aroma, are well-suited to cutting and using in the vase as well as drying.
It also is the champion of mixed containers. Use them as the thriller plant and combine with trailing gold lantana and the vining purple heart. Some of the new trailing yellow petunias and calibrachoas would also be picture perfect partners.
Thankfully, Blue Fortune is getting easier to find — but get to your garden center soon. Jump on board and give the agastache a try.
(Norman Winter is executive director of the Columbus Botanical Garden, Columbus, Ga., and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations Color and Style in the Garden.”)
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