The Pollinators’ Fortune

Though beekeeping was largely an offshoot of my passion for gardening, it has made me reconsider what I choose to plant.  I’m more interested now in planting perennials that provide forage for honey bees and other pollinators, as well as late season chow for birds.   Agastache Foeniculum, Anise Hyssop, or Agastache Blue Fortune (all the same plant) is one of my favorite perennials to this end.  A member of the mint family, A. Foeniculum is easy to grow and flowers profusely from July through the killing frost.  It’ll take as much sun as you can give it.

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One of the best characteristics of Blue Fortune, though, is how much food it provides for pollinators and birds. Birds gotta eat!  During the summer months it produces nectar that feeds honey bees, native bees, and butterflies.  On any given day there might be fifty bees at once on a single plant.  They do require pretty significant space, as mine grow about four feet tall and three to four feet wide.  They become highly branched and each of the main stems sends out offshoots that product another sprig of flowers.

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Later in the season, as the days become shorter and the temperature cools, the flowers go to seed,which feeds birds until the plant is covered by the snow blanket.

Just in case feeding the bees and birds isn’t enough, people put the leaves in salads, eat the flowers, and apparently also make tea from steeping the leaves and stems.  Supposedly, it has some medicinal uses as well.  I don’t know about all that, but if you chew the leaves they taste like black licorice.  Not my bag, but some of you other gangstas may find that intriguing.  Gangsta, out!

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