Saturday, August 9, 2008

Blue(?) Bottlebrush Blooms

Monica of Garden Faerie's Musings visited the Lurie Garden in downtown's Millennium Park on Sunday during her visit to Chicago a couple of weekends ago. She wrote about her visit on her MLive blog, Full Bloom. I haven't been to the Lurie Garden yet, or Millennium Park for that matter. Quite the homebody, I don't get out much! When I'm not working I spend as much time at home as possible, especially in my own garden.

Anyway, Monica posted some lovely photos from her visit to Lurie Garden. The first shot in the post is of Agastache 'Blue Fortune.' Check it out, then compare the bloom color to the same plant in my garden. I wanted that blue, but this is what I got instead:

Well, this is sort of what I got. I didn't enhance this photo at all, yet the blue in the photo doesn't accurately depict the color of these blooms. They're really more the color of dirty dishwater.

They don't look like this either. I took the first shot in the early morning, and this one later in the day, right after sunset. I've tried at several different times of day, and can't capture the dull color of these blooms on camera.
Agastache 'Blue Fortune' is also know as Anise Hyssop. The foliage is very fragrant, and when crushed smells distinctly of anise. It's described on the tags that came with my three plants as follows: "Beautiful spikes of flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden. Add the aromatic foliage to teas, salads, and drinks for a sweetly spicy flavor. Prized for is neat habit, long bloom season, and heat and drought tolerance." It's estimated height is 24-36", and recommended exposure is full sun.

The anise hyssop here is planted in the shade. In it's second summer in our garden, it's over three feet tall and blooming profusely in spite of its less-than ideal light conditions. It's just the color of these flowers that bugs me. They're dull. Dull, dull, dull. Oh, and did I mention they're dull?

There are a number of plants recommended for sun that bloom admirably in part sun, and occasionally, even in full shade. Other examples include some daylilies, phlox, and coneflowers. For example, here's 'Ruby Giant' in the shade with about an hour of dappled afternoon sun in our garden:
There's nothing ruby, or giant, or purple about this coneflower. In this case, I enjoy this demure, pretty, pale pink flower, and I don't think the finches will care what color it was when they're enjoying it's delectable seeds.

I'm thinking about moving the hyssop in the fall to a spot where there's a little more sun - in front of the 'Herbstsonne' Rudbeckia,and behind the 'Goldsturm.'The rudbeckias are planted in the sunniest part of the garden, (still at best part sun.) I wonder if moving the hyssop would perk up the color of the blooms. This fall I hope to move lots of things around in our garden. It's been more of a nursery than a garden as I've been collecting plants and experimenting with what and where to grow stuff in this dry, shady garden these first years I've lived here. I'm very pleased with how well the hyssop is growing and blooming, even in the shade. I love the scent of the foliage, the large size of the plants, and how well they tolerate the challenging conditions of growing in the shallow roots of our large maples. I like the long bloom time. It's just that dull bloom color that bugs me.

Oddly enough, the coneflowers planted in almost full shade are blooming before the ones in part sun. I'm curious to see the buds on the sunnier coneflowers as they open, probably starting in the next few days. I wonder if they'll be brighter in color. I suspect they will. If so that will be even more motivation to move the hyssop and the 'Goldstrum' Rudbeckias.

Do you grow Agastache 'Blue Fortune' in your garden? I'd love to know your opinion of this plant. I'm curious about the color of your blooms, and how that might correlate with how much sun they receive.


  1. I don't grow Agastache - yet. If it blooms that well in part shade, I'm willing to give it a try. What I want, though is the chartreuse foliaged form. My Coneflowers are all in part shade now. Some used to be in full sun, but the shade to the west is finally expanding. The shade doesn't seem to affect the flower color.

  2. Sometimes color is not onlydetermined by genes but light and nutrients. I saw a new for me, variegated coneflower called Prairie Frost that I want to try.

  3. I grow Blue Fortune. I have three plants grouped in a front raised garden under an oak and pine tree. They get afternoon sun and a bit of morning sun but a lot of shade too. I love it! Yes, the bloom color is washed out but gee, it blooms like crazy and is so big with such a presence that the color doesn't even matter to me. It is especially attractive to bees. I call it my licorice plant since I think it smells like licorice though I don't know what anise smells like exactly. It is purported to be a short lived perennial but mine has been there for a few years and doing well, no sign of slowing down. I did try the chartreuse (maybe Tutti Fruitt?) with no luck. I might try it again though. Like you said, if it doesn't work-just move it. They will do fine with a bit more sun.

  4. Anonymous10:57 AM

    I have the white version of this Agastache. I thought I was buying the purple, but that's another story. Anyhow I have grown the purple version and I think the amount of sun they get could make a difference in the color of the bloom. I didn't realize all those plants would even do well in that much shade let alone bloom. How versatile!

  5. Anonymous6:40 PM

    No, I don't have that plant. But I do like the unusual texture. (You know how I'm a "texture" gal!) And the blooms may be dull, but they are a nice contrast.

  6. I don't have agastache either, but it's one I've seen and considered planting before. Glad to know it does so well, even if the bloom isn't the color you expected.
    I've noticed this summer that the cherry profusion zinnias I planted vary in color, though I bought them in four-packs all at the same time. The ones planted in pots in mostly shade are a very pale pink, while the others are a hot pink. The amount of sun must affect some plants more than others.

  7. I grow this 'Blue Fortune' Anise Hysop, since it is supposed to be sterile and not self sow as Agastache normally do. Mine gets 9hours of full sunlight every day and they are a blue towards purple in colour, but fades to a a whitish blue like yours as the flowers age.

  8. MMD, it's awesome how much it blooms. I've just recently seen the chartreuse-colored variety. I love that bright green.

    I wonder if the effect of sunlight on bloom color might be different with different varieties. I have ruby giant in more and less shade, I'm curious to see if there's any difference. I saw them blooming in full sun, and they were bigger with more saturated color than mine.

    MN, wow, a variegated coneflower! They are doing amazing things with coneflowers these days.

    I haven't had much luck with the newer varieties in my garden, and have seen many of them fail even at the nursery. Some of the fancier ones seem less sturdy and less hardy than the older cultivars, and none seem quite as tough as the species. I hope Prairie Frost is a strong one.

    Tina, cool! Good to know its growing so well for you. I hope mine keep coming back as yours are. I'm pretty sure I'll be moving these in the fall, and hoping more sun brightens up the blooms, even if just a smidge. If not, I'll get used to the color! Anything that blooms this much in the shade is a keeper.

    PG, Gah! It's so easy to pick up mis-tagged plants. Working at the nursery, it's clear there are plenty of ways for this to happen. I might like white better than this muddy blue!

    Brenda, I do like the soft, fuzzy texture of the bottlebrush blooms. I think they'd contrast nicely with the green-eyed and black-eyed susans, especially if a little more sun brightens them up a bit!

    Rose, I must say I'm really impressed with this plant. It's a commanding presence, and it's simply covered in blooms - very unusual for a full-sun plant out of its element and in the shade. . . unusual for just about anything in the shade, actually. I'm really impressed with the number, if not the color of the blooms.

    Your experience with your zinnias reinforces my hope that moving the agastaches into more sun might brighten them up some.

    Niels, the color of yours sounds much like the agastache Monica photographed at the Lurie Garden, and what I'd hoped would be the color of mine. Nine hours of sun isn't available in my shady garden, but even a couple hours more might make enough difference in the color of these to completely win me over.

  9. Hi Linda,
    I had to google this plant before I could even leave a comment. I mean I knew I didn't have this growing here but had to find out why. I did find out it is for Zones 4-9... I'm borderline 9B and 10. I have made some things work that are suitable for Zone 9 but more than that... here's what I think my problem would be... Agastache should be planted in full sun and slightly alkaline soil. The most critical factor is good drainage. This plant will NOT tolerate wet soil, especially in winter. When planting, put a thick layer of gravel in the bottom of the hole and then mix more in with the filler soil.

    As far as FS versus PS... almost everything that says it requires FS can't take Florida FS ... a little filtered sun is a relief to any perennial/annual around here.

    I am surprised the Rudbeckia are doing so well in part sun but glad to know it... that means I might try some of those afterall next spring.

    It is disappointing when you think you are getting blue and you get dull but I have to say your bottlebrush is still quite a lovely bush!

  10. it's sometimes hard to get colors lifelike in photos! :( My rudbeckia in shade also do quite well. Oregano, too. Both are a lot less invasive, but bloom just as nice, if a bit shorter (not straggly). Also, my heuchera seem to do well in sun, at least the traditional green leaf-pink flowers variety (don't know cultivar name). It's funny how some plants can thrive in absolutely the wrong conditions. I had a well-known local garden celebrity argue with me about this. I invited her to my home to see for herself, but she hasn't stopped by (imagine!). (Note: I do believe in right plant, right place, it's just that I misjudged where shade and sun were when I initially planted my garden.)
    ~ Monica

  11. Meems, the soil under the maples tends to be pretty dry, and drains well. Maybe that's why these drought-tolerant plants are happy so far.

    It must be such a different world gardening in your climate. I'll bet filtered sun is welcomed by the human as well as the plant life in sunny Florida!

    I've grown Rudbeckias in shade or part sun in previous gardens. They've always done well for me no matter how much or how little sun they get. They're not as tall or as full in the shade, but they still bloom very nicely. They're very versatile!

    Hi Monica, it seems like some colors photograph better than others, or at least truer than others. Blue seems to be more of a challenge than some other colors.

    I believe, in theory, right plant, right place, but find myself pushing the envelope with all this shade, putting in plants that would probably be a little happier, definitely grow faster, and likely have more blooms with more sun. The sunnier parts of the garden are definitely filling in faster than the shadier parts, since I keep moving stuff over there!

  12. You are wondering if your agastache will be more blue or brighter blue in full sun. No. I have three huge Blue Fortunes and they are all in full sun. Grey best describes the color. Blue-ish tinted but mostly grey. When I bought the first one, I complained on my perennial forum about the wishy-washy grey color. Everyone agreed what you see is what you get. Over the years I've come to really like the plant and added two more to my original one.

    Even with the less than eye popping color, it would make a great background for rudbeckia, gaillardia, or daylily.

    I'd like to try another color but have heard they aren't as hardy.

  13. gardengirl, Hello...I thought of you several times while I was walking around Chicago! It's a fun city and the plantings are spectacular. It would have been delightful to talk and tour Lurie Garden!

    I don't grow really isn't happy unless it has sharp drainage ...not likely here without a good deal of work! But I want to! Does that count! It looks like a pleasant plant but, I get that you are under whelmed by its color...I feel that way about about a few plants!


  14. Hi Marnie, thanks for the scoop on these plants. I'm pretty sure I'm moving them between the two rudbeckias. There are daylilies in the vicinity too, as well as Joe Pye weed and some phlox.

    I've spent a lot of time looking at those agastaches. I have to love them, the way they bloom like crazy. The plants are really beautiful. Too bad they're not just a little bluer, but I really shouldn't complain with all those FLOWERS, and the stately plant.

    Hey Gail, I'm glad you got a chance to walk around the city. It's so pretty this time of year. Talking and touring Lurie Garden with you would have been very nice!

    I hope you enjoyed the cool weather and weren't bothered too much by the rain Saturday afternoon. I love Augusts like this. The long-range forecast is for a cool, wet August for Chicago.

    I'm not surprised the agastache is happy here - the little soil there is in-between the maple roots drains very well - the trees see to that! I think I'll learn to love this plant in spite of its gray color. Gray will probably end up being the next greatest designer color in flowers, and I'll be the first one on the block with gray flowers. ;~)

  15. Anonymous12:49 AM

    I once painted a kitchen 9 times to get the right blue. It ended up being in the grey family. It was called Smoke. It reminds me of thos blues you said look like dirty dish water. But it is beautiful.

  16. my agasatche spreads, but is manageable. The blooms are a bit dull, but the frgarance is so much better than some bright flowers, and I get goldfinches on them too!

  17. Wow Anna! Nine times? That's a lot. I'm not nearly that particular, and can't see myself working that hard. I'm basically lazy, and would rather spend my time enjoying my surroundings than working on them. (It shows, too! ;~)

    Thanks for visiting Stratoz. I think I can learn to love this plant. It's just not the blue I thought it would be. On the other hand, it blooms way more than I thought it would here, and it's really a beautiful plant. Good to know goldfinches like it. I'm sure they'll be here for the coneflower seeds before long.

  18. I hope you do learn to love it. Just go out every so often, grab a leaf, roll it in your fingers and take a whiff.


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