Friday, February 24, 2012

Low Maintenance Plants
Plant Name: Agastache spp.
Common Name: Hummingbird Mint, Anise Hyssop, Sunset Hyssop
Overall Low Maintenance Rating:                            4.8 Stars

In keeping with my resolution to grow more critter friendly plants this year, I am purchasing several more plants of Agastache. These plants provide nectar-filled flowers that benefit a variety of garden beasties, including the much desired hummingbird. There are many species of Agastache and I’ve found that only a few do well here in zone 5, though I will admit that our damp winters may have more to do with my success rate (or lack of) than the temperature.
Agastache rupestris is my hands down favorite. It is a delicate looking, wonderful smelling, care free plant I would not be without. I grew it from seed many years ago and, while the original plant is long gone, it provided several seedlings which I scattered throughout the garden. The long wands of flowers are a mix of salmon, rose and pink and the leaves are long and thin, smelling of root beer.
Agastache rupestris

This is not a bullet-proof plant. It requires excellent drainage and full sun. I have lost several plants when our winters were especially wet. During the season, though, it is totally carefree and a delight.
The other species I have had good luck with is Agastache foeniculum, especially the variety ‘Golden Jubilee’. The plain species is a beautiful herb grown for tea, with large, rough green leaves and spikes of blue flowers. ‘Golden Jubilee’ is a variety with golden leaves, very showy. Both seed quite a bit and it’s best to deadhead them. I have little gold seedlings coming up all around my patio after planting only two plants!

Agastache 'Golden Jubilee', guarding the entrance to the patio

Another gorgeous Agastache is A. cana which has many named varieties. I have had no luck overwintering any of them but they make fantastic pot plants and draw the hummingbirds like a dinner bell.
My favorite place to find Agastaches is High Country Gardens ( in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They have a great selection and excellent advice on planting.
Disease                                                                                5 Stars
Very rarely, I have seen powdery mildew on an Agastache, usually when the weather was particularly cool and damp. I figure what the hell; EVERYTHING has powdery mildew when the weather is like that, including me, so why fuss? No problems other than that.
Pests – Insects                                                                  5 Stars
Unless you count too many pollinators, I’ve never seen insects damaging these plants. The bumblebees can get a little over-enthusiastic and occasionally snap a flower stem, but that’s about it.
Pests – Animal                                                                  5 Stars
None that I’ve seen. Many plants in my garden are troubled by voles but they won’t touch this plant.
Invasiveness                                                                      4.5 Stars
While some hummingbird mints reseed vigorously (yes, I’m talking to you, ‘Golden Jubilee’!), most are actually quite polite about it and don’t overwhelm the gardener. I actually search out and protect seedlings of Agastache rupestris, since they are not overly common and it is my very favorite. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but generally, the seedlings are modest or at least easily removed. They make great gifts to other gardeners!
General Maintenance – Water                                 5 Stars
Agastache is considered a xeric plant, meaning it doesn’t require lots of extra water. In my experience, it will do quite well in the main part of the garden with regular watering and even better over in the gravel pile with very little water. It will die a miserable death, though, if it gets too much water so don’t plant it in a bog garden. It is also touchy about winter moisture so make sure it gets better than average drainage.
General Maintenance – Fertilizing                          5 Stars
No extra fertilizer required. Agastache actually prefers a lean soil, though it will do just fine in regular garden soil, provided the drainage is excellent.
General Maintenance – Pruning/Cleaning             4.5 Stars
Agastache is best left alone until spring clean up. Pruning it down in the fall can result in dead plants by spring. Once the temperatures have warmed up, you will be able to see where the plant is resprouting and prune off everything above that.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I'm Back! With a new back! Sort of . . .

I finally broke down and had the back surgery I needed at the beginning of January and I'm just now starting to feel human again. For those interested, I had what's called a lumbar fusion at the base of my spine. Essentially, they pull the disc out and fuse the bones together so they can't slip anymore. They tell me I'll feel like a new person when the bones fully heal . . . in 6 months to a year. Gah!

So I have spent much time, some of it in a narcotics induced stupor, laying in bed and planning my next blog post. Thanks to said narcotics, I can't remember diddly about those posts I wrote in my mind. I'm sure they were much more insightful and entertaining than what you will actually read here.

I also spent a goodly chunk of time catching up on my backlog of books to be read. Last fall, I decided to add some new courses to my usual repertoir of continuing education classes for the spring of 2012. Over the summer, when my back had me side-lined from gardening, I developed an interest in all the critters I had never taken the time to observe - birds, bugs, butterflies, bullfrogs; you name it. Even a few that didn't begin with the letter B!