Anise Hyssop for Kitchen, Pollinators, Garden

The verdict is in: Anise Hyssop is Herb of the Year for 2019 (https://iherb.org/herb-of-the-year/).  This mint-family plant has a delicious French-Tarragon flavor for summer salads. Pollinators love it, too. In the photo you may be able to see the tiny bee on the left, flying toward Hyssop’s late-summer flowers. 

Because of the leaves’ texture and scent, it is planted in children’s gardens and accessibility gardens. Also, since it is the same Hyssop mentioned in the Bible it is planted in meditation gardens.

The first time I saw this Agastache in a botanical garden it had a place of prominence in a 10-by-10-foot bed surrounded by concrete sidewalk. The tag said Blue Giant Hyssop and I immediately ordered seeds. Other names include Fragrant Giant Hyssop, and Lavender Hyssop. We loitered there enjoying the colorful covering of pollinators. 

Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, often survives the winter and scatters seeds so if the original plant dies, replacements pop up nearby.

The tubular-shaped, purple flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Their flowers are used to decorate cookies and the leaves flavor honey, syrup, teas and jelly. Donna Frawley (http://frawleysfineherbary.com) infuses a pint of honey with ½ cup fresh herbs in a sealed jar on a sunny windowsill for a week.

Hyssop tea is said to ease cold symptoms, the essential oil is an antiviral, poison ivy wash, burn poultice and sunburn salve. (Rita Heikenfeld www.abouteating.com)

The plants mature at 3-feet tall so they can be in the middle or back of a pollinator bed. Make sure you can get to them because the fragrant leaves and flowers are a great addition to bouquets,.

Start seeds outside in the garden now in a well-drained, sunny location, away from automatic irrigation. Do not cover . Or, you can mix seeds with fine sand and refrigerate for a month before sowing outside (www.prairiemoon.com). Thin seedlings a foot apart. 

The rough, scented leaves attract no insects, deer or rabbits.  Plant several of this prairie native in swaths, containers or beds for a summer of scent and color. Black-eyed Susan,  Russian Sage, Monarda and native grasses make good companions. 

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