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  • Waterwise Gardening | David Salman

The Story of A Home Grown Hero; Agastache rupestris and its Rise to Fame

Santa Fe horticulturist and owner of Waterwise Gardening, David Salman, has long been a horticultural pioneer introducing a number of new natives and Old World plants into cultivation. He has especially nurtured a long-time interest in western native plants in his attempts to bring more regionally suitable garden plants into our gardens.

One such success story is his introduction of Agastache rupestris (Licorice Mint Hyssop) in 1996. Purchasing a few seed packets in the early 1990's of this unfamiliar native plant from his favorite seed company, Southwestern Native Seeds, David wasn’t sure what to expect. But having grown the fantastic Agastache cana (Texas Hummingbird Mint), he knew this new species could be something special. And indeed it was.

At the same time, one of the region’s premier plant explorers and horticultural pioneers, Panayoti Kelaidis, director of the Rock Alpine Gardens at the Denver Botanic Gardens had also purchased the seed from Southwestern Native Seeds. David and Panayoti had talked about what a fantastic plant Agastache rupestris was proving to be and were having a friendly competition to find out who could introduce it first. Panayoti was keen to bring it into the brand new regional plant introduction organization, Plant Select® and David was excited to release the plant through his High Country Gardens catalog. Well, High Country Gardens was the first to sell Agastache rupestris to the gardening public. Plant Select close on their heels, introduced the plant through Plant Select the very next year (1997).

Licorice Mint Hyssop was an instant bestseller as gardeners had never seen such uniquely gorgeous orange and pink flower spires that perfumed the air with their pungent scent of mint and licorice. And its unmatched popularity with the hummingbirds was also very exciting for the gardeners who grew it.

The plant quickly gained the attention of the horticultural world across the US and Europe. Professional plant breeders also were quick to recognize the potential that this obscure genus of flower perennials, the Agastache, had to offer. After 25 years, the Agastache have become one of the most popular pollinator-friendly plant families in the horticultural world. And it all started with the discovery and introduction of Agastache rupestris.

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