Back to Back Issues Page
Agastache, Hummingbird Mint, Hyssop
June 30, 2014

Happy Birthday Canada, July 1st.

Happy Birthday America, July 4th.

The short respite did wonders for moral.

Our yearly trip to upper Michigan.

For Yolanda, it is like seeing stuff for the first time (short term memory).

For Karen, tourist trap stores and other shops.

For me, it is a breath of fresh air in God's country.

It was interesting to see lilac bushes in full bloom, in late June.

Lunch under a pavilion along the Saint Mary's River, Sault Ste. Marie offered free entertainment.

A cliff swallow nest (pictured) with mom and dad flying in and out offered a free smile and wonderment.

In the distance was an Osprey nest perched on a man made structure.

A new month means it is time to give your feeders a good scrubbing.

In the heat of summer bacteria thrives, if you can't clean your feeders more than once, one good time helps more than you know.

With people so busy and on the go, who has time to scrub feeders.

A reminder that a good spray of rubbing alcohol works to kill germs.

Alcohol wont clean things, but works in pinch.

Rubbing alcohol dries or evaporates fast, and leaves no harmful residue.

Don't forget a good cleaning for your water sources.

Scrub out the algae, bird pooh and other filth.

A section of copper pipe will keep algae growth down.

So will maintaining a clean and fresh water source.

Please remember to offer fresh water for your farm animals and especially your fur kids.

Don't allow pets outside in the sun for any length of time.

PLEASE, leave nothing in a closed up car.

Gardeners Beware.

The evidence against neonicotinoid pesticides keeps piling up.

But is it enough to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act in time?

At your leisure, read all or parts of the scathing report.

This weeks topic is on Agastache, hummingbird mint, hyssop.


Hummingbird Attracting Agastache:

In official terms, Agastache is a member of the Lamiaceae family, making it a cousin of mint.

Is it a mint or a hyssop?

Agastache isn't plagued with the sprawling invasiveness of the popular herb cousin.

It is instead a quite well-behaved, upright plant that flowers through summer and into fall, if properly maintained.

Mine continue to bloom until it gets to cold for any kind of growth.

Adding confusion to identifying Agastache species is that it is sometimes referred to as "mint" or "hyssop".

For example, Agastache cana is also known as Texas Hummingbird Mint or Wild Hyssop or Mexican Hyssop.

(Looking at the Latin name, regardless of the common name, Agastache will always be there.)

Hyssops are beautiful, aromatic plants that function as nature's hummingbird and butterfly feeder.

These low-maintenance plants bloom from late spring and early summer, to mid-fall.

when other flowering perennials have reached the end of their cycle.

While there are many selections of Agastache available, there are two distinct types:

Plant and flower size can range from with large flowers like 'Desert Sunrise' and small-flowered ones like Agastache neomexicana.

The large-flowered hyssops are a hummingbird favorite while the smaller-flowered cultivars are a favorite of butterflies.

Another great hyssop quality?

They repel deer, rabbits and groundhogs.

Three critters that are always a challenge in my gardens.

Planting and Maintenance of Your Agastache:

To plant his Agastache, use a hand trowel, and make individual planting holes.

Enrich the soil by adding a generous handful of organic fertilizer.

Be careful not to overdo it because hyssops don't like soil that's too rich.

Next, you may add a handful of high-quality organic compost to serve as the backfill behind the plant's root ball.

If the roots are too compact, make a couple of scores to loosen and fluff the roots.

This allows for new and healthy root growth.

Plant it so the top of the root ball is just below the level of the soil.

Creating a depression in the soil around the plant will help to hold any extra irrigation water.

Here is where a large paper cup with the bottom cut off comes in handy.

With the bottom remove, place the cup around, leaving about an inch above the ground to work as a water reservoir.

Although they're low maintenance, Agastache does enjoy an annual application of mulch and fertilizer in the fall.

Like all woody perennials, leaving plant stems standing over the winter to help them through the cold season, then cutting the plant back in mid-spring.

Because the plants grow up, rather than out, they may need to be staked during the summer. "Some of the larger selections like 'Desert Sunrise' may need occasional staking if they get floppy, but it only needs to be done once," says Salman.

Agastache like to have their crown (the area between the roots and the stems) protected from excess winter moisture.

Gravel mulch will pull double duty for the plants. It will help keep the roots cool in the summer and protect them from freezing temperatures in the winter.

Keep water until the plants are established.

Remember, these plants are native to the drier southwest United states and Mexico.

They prefer less moisture.

If crowded and/or overwatered, Agastache will develop powdery mildew and/or not flowering much.

A soggy Agastache may not even make it through the winter.

Gardeners growing in regions that get less than 40" of rain a year will probably have the best luck with getting Agastache to return.

Amending the soil with expanded shale or gravel will allow for sharp drainage, which is a "must" with this plant.

While many cultivars are zone hardy to 5 and 6, I pretty much treat them as a annual.

What I mean, is no matter what I do, at best I have a 50/50 chance of them over wintering.

They don't like wet feet, and too many years the frozen ground retains too much moisture.

Even though they are planted on a hill.

I've tried mulch.

Bags of leaves on top.

I've tried nothing.

For me it all depends on the winter we have here in Michigan

I know this......

Agastache is growing in popularity.

Not just in the plants native southwestern regions, but where ever there are hummingbirds and a decent growing season.

Some plants can be pricy.

I look for starter plants ($2-$6) and quite often by July you can find them at a discount.

With a little grooming and proper care, they are feeding hummingbirds by mid July.

Again, it is up to you to do some research.

A. cana was good for a few years.

This year I am Trying 'Raspberry Beaty' and 'Tutti Frutti'.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"We can often do more for other men by trying to correct our own faults than by trying to correct theirs."

Francois Fenelon (1651-1715) French Roman Catholic Theologian

Read that again my friends.

Here is what the bible has to say.

"How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Jesus Christ

Matthew 7:4-5

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page