Perennial Bronze Fennel
Origin: Paradise, Utah
Improvement status: Landrace
Seeds per packet: ~100
Germination tested 12/2020: 31% (below standard)
Life cycle: Perennial
A cold-hardy perennial fennel with purplish-bronze colored leaves, from Joseph Lofthouse in Paradise, Utah. Fennel is usually grown as an annual, but in the wild in it is a long-lived perennial, and there are some very cold-hardy perennial fennels out there (we have some growing in our field in New Jersey — but this population from Utah is likely much hardier still). Both seeds and leaves can be harvested for their strong licorice-like flavor. Fennel pollen is also a wonderful ingredient, increasingly popular among chefs, bartenders, and cheesemakers. Beautifully decorative and attractive to pollinators, this is an eye-catching plant in any landscape. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars may be found feasting on its fronds. Medicinally useful as well, this is an easy-to-grow plant that no garden should be without!
GROWING TIPS: Plant after danger of frost is past, surface-sowing. Give plants at least a foot. Eventually they will get quite large. May spread in certain climates (though native to the Mediterranean, fennel has already naturalized in many regions of North America), so keep an eye on this one. Grows 4-5 feet tall.
NOTE: The photo here is not of Joseph's perennial bronze fennel, but another bronze fennel (Joseph couldn't find a photo) — though Joseph's will look similar at this stage of growth. The copyright on the photo here is held by Patrick Roper, and the photo is licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.