Outdoors

Flowering Fall Herbs

Not only are Agastache and Calamintha nepeta two of my favorite flowering perennials, they are also culinary herbs. They make gorgeous flowers, and their leaves smell delicious -- the ultimate herbs for style and substance.
 
Both plants are slow to start in early summer and play dead in spring, but once summer rolls around, they start a show that ends only with frost. Where most perennials give us three to six weeks of bloom, these reward with sixteen. Both make good potted plants or will flourish in-ground.
 
Many Agastache species are native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, making them a natural choice for hot, dry gardens. As highly adaptable plants, they also respond happily to more water. They grow tall, with striking flowers, making them excellent fillers toward the back of borders. And while their stately spires of flowers are visited by bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds, Agastache are also low on the list of favorite treats for deer.
 
Agastache should be planted in full sun, in well drained soil, and deadheading spent flower spikes will ensure continued bloom. Thanks to hybridizing, the flowers are rich in color, and their hardiness starts around USDA Zone 6. Although I cut many perennials back in early winter, common wisdom suggests that waiting to cut hybrid Agastache back to three to four inches in early spring helps it survive a tough winter.
 
Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop) is the hardiest species, reputedly down to USDA Zone 1.
 
These Agastache are hardy to Zone 6:

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' grows to three feet and has fat, pale blue flower spikes and minty-anisey leaves.
 
Agastache 'Black Adder' is a beautiful azure-to-lavender blue with minty leaves.
 
Agastache 'Ava' is a slow starter after she has been transplanted, but will take off the following year, with deep fuchsia flowers that lure hummingbirds (if you are lucky).

Agastache 'Painted Lady' has silvery leaves and salmon flowers that make excellent companions for silver foliage or blue flowers. It is a good choice for a dry garden.
 
In the kitchen, add the bruised leaves and flowers of Agastache to a summer cocktail to offer a hint of minty anise. The youngest, most tender leaves are delicious in an herb salad, along with basil, flat leaf parsley and snipped chives, with a poached egg on top.
 
On to Calamintha nepeta -- an herb that's native to Europe and is known as lesser calamint. In bloom, it is like a summer snow flurry. Plant it near a path and brushing past it will release an instant tonic-waft of strong peppermint.

Calamintha can self-seed vigorously: This is a very good reason to deadhead, as it stops their wild spread and extends bloom time. They are not considered invasive.
 
In garden planting plans, I like to combine it with perennials such Geranium 'Rozanne', which sprawls through the airy white-flowered stems, or at the feet of leggier perennials such as Echinacea or Perovskia, as well as shrubs, such as roses.
 
Calamintha nepeta is famous in Italy, under the name nepitella. It is used for cooking, especially combined with wild mushrooms, artichokes and pork. Add it sparingly, as it has strong flavor. I have also used it as tisane, an herbal tea, before bed, pouring a cup of boiling water onto six stems with leaves and allowing it to steep for five minutes.

Calamintha nepeta and its subspecies and hybrids need full sun (six hours plus), good drainage and they do not mind drying out a little.

Planting these two perennial herbs ensures a substantial reward of flowers, scent, flavor and a long season of bloom. I hope you enjoy them!
 
By 66 Square Feet (Photo Credit: 66 Square feet)

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