I hold National Plant Collection ® of Hyssopus.  The genus Hyssopus is a native of Southern Europe and has commonly been grown in British gardens both as a culinary and as a medicinal herb.  It was also used as a 'strewing' herb, one of many aromatic herbs strewn on the ground to overcome unsavoury smells.

The hyssopus of Dioscorides was named from azob, meaning 'a holy herb', because it was used for cleaning sacred places.  However it is unlikely to be the hyssop of the Bible.

Both Gerard and Culpeper in their herbals write that as it is so well known it needs no description.  John Parkinson, apothecary of London, writing in The Garden of Pleasant Flowers, describes hyssops which are now sadly lost to cultivation.  He lists white hyssop with white variegated leaves and stems, russet hyssop with ash coloured leaves, golden hyssop with variegated gold and green leaves and double hyssop.  This latter variety was low growing, more bushy and less woody than the species.  It was covered with thick dark green leaves and could be used as a border for a knot garden.

The only hyssops readily available for today's gardens are the blue flowered Hyssopus officinalis and its pink and white forms and H. officinalis subsp. aristatus with blue flowers.

Hyssop is one of the herbs used in making the liqueur Chartreuse.


 Updated April 2010