I have very mixed feelings when some of my old favorites are picked up by large breeding companies and ‘new’ patented versions swamp the market. Two that come to mind from the past week are Agastache and Abelia.
Agastache (Anise Hyssop).
Agastache foeniculum is a wonderful herb that can be used in teas, but it also makes a great garden perennial. The species comes in blue and white, and is hardy to zone5. Strong upright stems and great summer color that attract bees and other pollinators. The resulting seed heads are sturdy and can remain throughout winter to add winter interest. New cultivars though have expanded and Agastaches are about to hit the market big time. The new ones come in reds and pinks, peaches and other pastels. On the left above is Agastache “Cotton Candy” by Terra Nova nursery, a pink droopy sort of plant, and on the right is the lovely species Agastache foeniculum
This has always been one of my favorite shrubs. It blooms in late summer with lovely white bells lining the arching stems. The leaves are evergreen and glossy throughout most of the continent (through zone 5) but obviously look a little drab in spring when the snow has melted. Now the Abelia is getting some attention as a great shrub for small gardens. It is bug free, trouble free and attractive without getting out of hand. It can also be pruned into a hedge, but this is not a great hedge plant, rather it should be a casual, cottage garden shrub.
The good side of the argument is that these very worthy shrubs and perennials are being noticed and planted in gardens, rather than being relegated to old fashioned gardens. The down side is that the true species of these great plants will likely be lost. Abelia has great dark green leaves, so why did they feel the need to develop a lime green/bronze type growth? Was it because the traditional one was boring or was it just because they could?