Plants that combine beauty with edibility are in vogue, and a new selection in the mint family fits this bill. Agastache 'Blue Fortune' has anise-scented leaves (hence its common name of anise hyssop) and purplish blue flower spikes that are wildly attractive to butterflies. This cross between A. foeniculum and A. rugosa was developed in Holland and features the best of both species--good plant vigor, better flowering habit than anise hyssop, and hardiness to zone 4. It has an upright growth habit (to 3 feet tall in warm climates) but spreads only 1 to 2 feet wide. Dense, colorful flower spikes appear as early as May and June in zones 7 through 9, a couple of months later in zones 4 through 6. Its leaves make a licorice-tasting tea.
'Blue Fortune' grows best in full sun but tolerates part shade as well as a wide range of soil types and soil moisture. Use it as an accent plant or in masses. Combine it with other blue-flowered plants such as Russian sage (Perovskia atriciplicifolia), plants with contrasting-colored flowers such as pink or red bee balm (Monarda), or finer-textured ornamental grasses such as blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) or fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum).
'Blue Fortune' plants are widely available.
Leonard Perry is a professor of horticulture at the University of Vermont who specializes in perennials.