Agastache

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5 Dec 2019

These easy-care, minty-fresh flowery fillers offer reliable and long-lasting summer colour.

Words: Linda Ross

 

Nothing flowers better in my seaside cottage garden than the agastache. These members of the hyssop family are beautiful perennials that in their native Central American homelands attract hummingbirds, giving them the common name hummingbird mints. They offer a constant source of flowery filler that complements my roses, lavender, salvia, sedum, flapjacks, blue chalksticks, globe artichoke, lilac kangaroo paws and flannel flowers. I use them to carpet areas at the front of my wide beds allowing the drumstick alliums of early summer and the burgundy-black liliums of late summer to emerge with their physical and visual support.

 

Colours range through champagne cream, apricot yellow, salmon, pink, deep pink, amethyst and deep purple to the palest of sky blue. Each long flower spire is made up of individual trumpets reminiscent of fine fuchsias on arching stems. The blooms are sweetly scented and I’ve noticed honey, blue-banded and teddy bear bees emerging from their nectar-rich trumpets. I’ve also seen the chestnut-breasted Eastern Spinebill drinking from the flowers while hovering in the air - our local equivalent of those hummingbirds!!

 

Care

With origins in dry Mexico (along with dahlia, zinnia and marigolds), this genus seems to thrive with little care, no rainfall and nutrient-poor soils. Plant in patches of three, five, seven or nine, depending on your space and allow them to quickly fill the area.

 

Pruning

It’s a challenge to know when to prune as the flowers never end. After trial and error I’ve found two trims work best. The first is in mid-summer, when I use secateurs to remove the finished flush of spring flowers, taking no more than a quarter off the top of the plants. Then at the end of winter I cut the plants back to ground level. Every three to five years it’s worth rejuvenating the plant by digging it up and dividing.

 

Favourites

Blue Boa: deep violet rather than blue, this multi-award-winner is nonetheless irresistible for its long-blooming 12cm-long, showy flower spikes.

 

Blue Fortune: lots of lavender-blue, fluffy, bottle-brush-like flowers are held over large deep-green, minty, licorice-scented foliage. Great for containers.

 

Sweet Lili: long-flowering plant with the top third of the 120cm tall flower stems smothered in apricot and amethyst flowers from early summer until winter.

 

Salmon Pink: a dwarf variety to 50cm, with mint-scented, silvery foliage and summer masses of pink flowers that age to salmon for a bi-colour effect.  

 

Champagne: fine, blue-green, lemon-scented foliage supports apricot, pale pink, or cream blooms on the same flowering stalk.

 

A. mexicana ‘Sangria’: rose-pink flowers in mid-summer and anise-flavoured foliage that makes a delicious tea, hot or cold.

 

Where to buy

Planters Patch

Antique Perennials

Clover Hill Rare Plants

Collectors' Plant Fair

Plant Lover’s Fair