As you are reading this column, Meant to Bee Queen Nectarine and Meant to Bee Royal Raspberry, two new agastache varieties, are approaching their 100th day of bloom at The Garden Guy's house. Both agastache or hummingbird mint varieties will be making their debut in 2023, and in a summer of miserable heat, my trials of the flower varieties have brought joy and excitement.
The Bee name is deliriously appropriate, as all sorts of bees are there morning till night. No doubt some probably sleep there, too. But that isn't all you will attract, as butterflies and hummingbirds will also visit, and of course the little lizards who want a happy meal. Just grab your binoculars and have a day of fun watching the Serengeti-like moments.
Those of you who garden in the Southeast and have longed for golden apricot and mauve-colored varieties of agastache seen in the Southwest can officially break out in the happy dance as both Meant to Bee varieties will quench your thirst.
I garden in western Georgia, zone 8a, and have flirted with success with other varieties that have the Western DNA, but nothing has compared to these two. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Blue Fortune, suggesting it to be the foundation of your pollinator habitat, and now I can point these out as the perfect partners.
While the habitat descriptor might scare you a little, rest assured, these varieties are so beautiful and exciting, they are sure to enhance any style of garden in which you choose to grow them. In one bed I have them partnered with Truffula Pink gomphrena, Pyromania Blaze torch lily, Rockin Playin' the Blues salvia, Color Coded Orange You Awesome echinacea and Luminary Ultraviolet tall garden phlox. Then I wondered if I layered these in front of Limelight Prime hydrangea, will all have enough show to come together in a blooming crescendo in late summer? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
Meant to Bee Queen Nectarine is the largest and can reach 36 inches in height and width, while Meant to Bee Royal Raspberry will top out around 28 inches in height and width. Their tall spiky habit will add excitement and interest in a garden typically dominated by round flowers. Both are recommended for zones 5-9. (Arkansas' zones range from 6-8, with zone 7 dominating most of the state.)
Like most of the perennials we treasure, good winter drainage is what dictates cold hardiness. Winter boggy soil will not be suitable, but provide good internal drainage and you'll be off to capturing the green thumb award. Sunlight is the next crucial prerequisite.
You will want to space your plants on 28-to-32-inch centers and even slightly more for Meant to Bee Queen Nectarine. Keep spacing in mind for the perennial partners you choose for your agastache.
These varieties will reward you with a super fall, too, if tired plants are cut back in late summer. When I was with Mississippi State University, we had a huge Fall Flower & Garden Fest in early October. To get ready, we would count back eight weeks from the event and cut back most everything. This usually meant starting the process around Aug. 1. Maintaining moisture and fertilization is even more critical to get through August and early September.
Agastaches or hummingbird mints are aromatic, and they create wonderful olfactory moments when you brush up against them. They are even more enjoyable to cut and use in floral arrangements indoors. You hardly hear anyone touting this, which is probably because we are so enthralled with all the pollinators. So my recommendation is to grow enough so you feel free to cut for the vase.
Meant to Bee Queen Nectarine and Meant to Bee Royal Raspberry are just two in a great lineup of new plants for 2023. It is a great time to be a gardener.
Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden."