Friday, December 14, 2018

Another obscure hyssop to know and grow

Hyssopus angustifolius in summer

A little over 20 years ago Denver Botanic Gardens helped popularize the Anise Hyssops* but these aren't REALLY hyssops, are they? Nope: Hyssopus is a small genus of Mediterranean mints that possess the real name, only one of which (see the last picture of this series) is common in cultivation. The one shown above blooming in midsummer in my "East Ridge" (a dry garden featuring old world xerophytes) at Quince, my home garden. It glows bright blue for weeks in midsummer when everything in the garden is baking, and going dormant!

Hyssopus angustifolius in autumn
 Here is the same clump in late summer, in seed: not unattractive even in this state: it forms such a trim, attractive mound. I first obtained this (and several similar taxa) from Bob Pennington at Agua Fria Nursery in Santa Fe, and I believe he got the seed of these from collections made in western and central Asia I believe by some of the Czech collectors. There were several names (Hyssopus seravschanicus was one) for slightly different taxa, a few turned out to be pinkish.

Hyssopus angustifolius in spring
Here is the same plant in early spring--when the seedheads have been sheared off: it comes back bright green and very attractive. The form I obtained from Bob is more compact than the commonly sold Mediterranean hyssop, and possibly more drought tolerant. It has endured very long periods between waterings on this berm for nearly two decades now--and keeps filling and improving with age! My kind of plant--and probably your kind of plant as well!

Hyssopus officinalis
Unfortunately, although I produce enormous quantities of seed on my wonderful plants (evergreen, drought tolerant, bright blue flowers: what's not to love?), I have not had success pawning it off on any of the dozens, nay! HUNDREDS of nurseryman with whom I exchange plants and seed. Don't ask ME why, ask them! Nor have my otherwise brilliant and clever colleagues at the Gardens picked up on this...I suppose they're juggling so many thousands of plants, what's another gem overlooked? I don't mind: I'll enjoy it all to myself!

As you can see from this wonderful planting at Denver Botanic Gardens' Herb Garden, the "run of the mill" species is pretty wonderful in its own right. More info on them here on the Navigator. You can buy this one at almost any garden center worth its salt come spring--but if you want some of my little'll just have to ask nicely. ( is where you can do that if you're serious--don't forget your address. Stamp or money not necessary). Time to get this little sucker out there!

*The showy North American Brittoniastrum group of Agastache was introduced to a wide commercial market through Plant Select (a partnership between Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University serving the Nursery Industry). Now everyone knows and grows the likes of Agastache rupestris--which was only a figment of Rich Dufresne's feverish horticultural brain prior to the mid 1990's (he's the one who got me to ask Sallie Walker to collect the original germplasm..). Meanwhile the "real" hyssops have been overlooked!

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