Into The Garden


These mid June days are quite something aren’t they. The light catches everything so beautifully, and the garden is alive with birds, buzzing and - yes - the occasional passing bike.

I think I’m going to wander out now and again and pick a plant or a corner to show you - a window into this new garden - where I hope to put some of the lessons I learnt on the 17 acres of Otter Farm into practice in a regular garden.

First up, a real favourite. Anise hyssop. Agastache foeniculum.

It’s native to the North America prairies, and widely planted there in the 19th century so that bees might produce anise honey; infusing a handful of leaves or flowers in warm honey will give you an impersonation of what all the fuss was about.

If you fancy it in your garden, I’d start with a young plant if I were you; you can sow in modules, undercover in spring (it needs warmth and light to germinate), barely covering with compost, but it’s a touch late for that this year, and why would you want to wait to have its company. If you have patience and fancy a gamble, you could sow direct now into a nicely prepared soil, in a sunny spot, in a rich soil, and it might not be too late.

As you can see, I let the stems climb towards their full 1m height - you can cut them back to 5cm above ground when flowering to encourage new leaves but I tend to wait until the flowers have gone over; the flowers are too special in flavour and on the eyes and leave them long enough and you may even see finches pecking at the seeds.

It dies back in winter; you’ll see it again in spring.

As well as the suggestions in the film, try it anywhere you like mint, adding it late to recipes and avoiding cooking as that does for the flavour. And I never thought I’d say this about anything - What Have I Become, Part 749 - but the leaves make a really good herb tea. Do let me know if you have a recipe for it that I should try.

It has a sister - Korean mint (A. rugosa) - and where anise hyssop leans towards the anise and Korean mint towards the Extra Strongs.

I’ll post again when it’s flowering and the cocktail bar of choice for all the bees in the postcode.