Sweet anise

Credit: Carol Pope


As many plants fall quietly into autumn dormancy, the purple spikes of my anise hyssop refuse to give up, all the while drawing bees and resisting browsing deer. Native to North America, it has been used through time by aboriginal peoples to treat fevers and colds; certainly, the leaves make a delicious and comforting tea.

Anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) is a self-seeding perennial hardy to zone 5. It is easy enough to grow from seed, albeit slow to start.

What I love most about agastache is that when I walk through the garden I am tantalized by its licorice-mint bouquet. Nothing is more relaxing than a “scratch and sniff” garden full of soothing scents.

This past summer, when I planted up a container for the Vancouver Garden Show Container Contest (Edible Ornamental category), agastache was one of its mainstays. I can testify that this many-layered combination of scents will have you savouring spicy fragrances with every passing breeze. Or collecting its leaves for a pot of tea!

Here is my spicy container-garden recipe. Put the taller plants toward the centre and allow the creepers to flow over the edges of your planter:

  • Agastache foeniculum (anise hyssop)
  • Foeniculum vulgare ‘Rubrum’ (bronze fennel)
  • Mentha x gentilis (ginger mint)
  • Mentha piperita (candymint)
  • Nepeta cataria ssp. citriodora ‘Lemony’ (lemon catnip)
  • Ocimum basilicum (cinnamon basil)
  • Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (golden marjoram)
  • Perilla frutescens (shiso, britton)
  • Salvia officinalis (tricolor sage)
  • Thymus citriodorus (gold edge lemon thyme)
  • Thymus citriodorus ‘Archer’s Gold’ (Archer’s Gold thyme)
  • Thymus x ‘Doone Valley’ (Doone Valley thyme)
  • Thymus vulgaris ‘Aureus’ (golden thyme)