Foeniculum 'Purpureum': a beautiful, fast-growing perennial herb
Foeniculum ‘Purpureum’ (commonly known as bronze fennel) is a fast-growing, upright perennial herb with beautifully feathery purple green foliage. It looks great throughout mid-spring and early summer, but I always think it is at its best during late summer and early autumn when many other plants have given up for the year.
F. ‘Purpureum’ will grow happily in most well-drained soils and loves a sunny position. It is sufficiently hardy for most UK winters and is relatively trouble-free in terms of pests and diseases. Attractive clusters of tiny yellow flowers (very similar in appearance to the white blooms of cow parsley) appear in mid-July and usually last throughout August, followed by aromatic seeds.
From a garden designer’s point of view, I love to use F. ‘Purpureum’ for height and texture as part of a mixed planting scheme. It will achieve heights of up to 1.5m but because it so light and finely-textured it isn’t very bulky and doesn’t usually block out everything behind it. It also has a beautiful aniseed fragrance and I can never resist nipping off a small section of foliage to breathe in its delicious scent.
Whether it is planted singularly or in clusters of three or five, F. ‘Purpureum’ is wonderful planted alongside other tall perennials. Verbena bonariensis and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ are two of my favourite companion plants for Foeniculum and both are looking fabulous this month. Tall ornamental grasses also work well, however, with Stipa gigantea never failing to please.
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