Gardening

A semi-evergreen perennial subshrub to 2 ft. (60 cm), hyssop is multistemmed from the base, and has small linear leaves borne in whorls up the stems. In summer, the plant bears long slender spikes of lipped, rich blue, nectar-filled flowers borne to one side of the stem only.

• Varieties A white-flowered variety called 'Alba' and a pink-flowered variety called 'Rosea' are also available. The dried flowers and leaves are used to make a tea for sore throats and bronchitis. Rock hyssop (H. officinalis 'Aristatus') is a dwarf compact form with purple-blue flowers.

• Position Hyssop requires a sunny, well-drained position, and is not fussy about the soil.

• Propagation You can easily propagate hyssop by seed sown in spring, or you can grow it from cuttings taken either in spring or autumn. The plants require a minimum spacing of 2 ft. (60 cm), although the distance can be halved if you are using hyssop for hedging.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

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particularly suited to alleviating conditions of the respiratory tract and is associated with antibacterial and antiviral activity, assisting the removal of catarrh and alleviating fevers. Hyssop is therefore often prescribed for colds, flu, feverish conditions, bronchitis and coughs.

Hyssop is also reputed to have a calming effect on the nerves and can assist with reducing anxiety. It has been used to help bring on delayed periods, particularly when the cause is due to tension and stress.

Modern research indicates that as a topical agent, hyssop may help combat herpes infections such as cold sores.

For the safe and appropriate use of hyssop, consult your healthcare professional. Do not use hyssop if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

• Maintenance To prevent plants from becoming "leggy," lightly prune after flowering and again in spring. Hyssop makes an excellent hedge that is comparable to that of lavender.

• Pests and diseases Hyssop has few problems. It is used as a trap plant for cabbage white butterfly around brassicas and as a companion plant for grapes.

• Harvesting and storing Harvest the leaves at any time and use them fresh, or dry them out of sunlight before storing them in airtight containers. When flowering starts, pick the inflorescences to use fresh, or dry them.

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