ANISE HYSSOP (Agastache foeniculum, A. anethiodora)
The botanical name foeniculum refers to fennel because anise
hyssop smells like fennel. This plant is a member of the mint family
as is evidenced by its square stems. This is a plant which is said to
grow three feet tall by one foot around, but my tallest spikes measure
4 feet 8 inches. It has toothed pointed oval leaves up to three inches
long which grow in pairs up the stem about three inches apart. The stem
ends in a flowered spike of tiny (1/8 inch) lavender blooms. Each bloom
has two pairs of protruding stamens which is the only feature it shares
with true hyssop.
The plant originated in South America, but I could find no mention
of it in my history of English herb gardens, so perhaps it is a recent
addition to English and North American herbs.
Anise hyssop can be grown in zones 3-8 and it isn't the least
bit fussy. My clumps have just been moved from deep shade to full sun
and they appear to flourish in both places; I will say the clumps have
gotten taller and fuller in the sun and against a wooden fence. One
reference says it does best in cool weather in a sunny locationwhich
is what it has had for most of the summer in my garden. It is easily
grown from seed sown in the fall; it will appear in spring. The books
say to sow it where you want it to grow, then thin the seedlings to
one foot apart. My biggest clump is easily two feet around.
The leaves of the plant are used for tea and as an ingredient in pot
pourri, although my pot pourri book doesn't mention it. I like to pick
a leaf and crush it to release the scent, then just sniff it as I walk
through the garden.
I found references to pink hyssop and blue hyssop without botanical
names, but I don’t believe anise hyssop comes in those colors.
Also, one reference says the leaves are purple but the leaves on mine
are green. After doing this report, I decided that anise hyssop is a
contrarious herb, as the references sometimes contradict both each other
and my little bit of experience!
Thanks to Nancy Works for this report on anise hyssop. Her sources
were Ogden Tanner Crockett and the Editors of TIME-LIFE BOOKS: Herbs,
The Time-Life Encyclopedia of Gardening, Alexandria, VA,
Time-Life Books, 1977; Helen M. Fox, The Years in my Herb Garden,
Collier Books, NY, Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1953; Simon
and Judith Hopkinson, Herbs, The Globe Pequot Press, Chester,