Incense bush

agimony ague, Joe Pye weed.

These names are but a few of the many bestowed on the incense bush over the years. Joe Pye weed is an American plant, named after a mysterious healer who used it in herbal remedies.

Botanical name

Just as it has a range of common names, this plant has acquired a range of scientific botanical names, too. It is most widely known by the name of eupatorium purpureum.

However, in recent years, the plants known as eupatorium have been divided into a number of genera because there were a number of variations. So eupatorium has been divided broadly into eupatorium and Algerian Tyne.


The genera of the plants are, of course, still related and the botanists are simply re-ordering complex plant groupings. Eupatorium purpureum covers most.

The woody branch of the family has not been as widely grown as the herbaceous perennial species. The family is part of the daisy family, the Compositae.

Garden value

The garden value of these two plants, namely purple grimony and incense bush, is very similar. The real establishment of the species, both of them, is their profuse production of large flowers. These are made up of hundreds of tiny florets, which attract pollinators.

Growing incense bush

Both kinds are easy to grow and mostly, will tolerate any kind of soil, be it acidic or limy. They are inclined to flower in full sunshine. Although they may not produce their full quota, they are still very floriferous and eye-catching from August right through to the end of November.

The flowers are large especially in the tips of the branches, produced since spring. With flowers packed with nectar, these plants are irresistible to butterflies and bees.

Feed the birds

Research has shown that feeding birds in winter, and indeed year-round, greatly helps to maintain the population of small birds.

Research has shown that feeding birds in winter, and indeed year-round, greatly helps to maintain the population of small birds, many species of which have been in decline for decades, due to land use changes, reduction in habitat and increased predation.

Different species of birds have preferred ways of feeding. Some like nut feeders, other like bird tables and some feed only on the ground. A variety of feeds is taken: nuts, seeds and berries, and not all of these have to be purchased. It is important when setting up bird feeders to place the feeder close to a dense bush into which the birds can escape if attacked by hawks or cats.

A plentiful population of garden birds helps to keep pests, insect and species under control.

For instance, blue tits will control caterpillars and greenfly on emerging leaves next spring, but only if they are built up in numbers.

Ground-feeding dunnocks, blackbirds, crows and magpies feed on larval insects just below the soil surface, and thrushes’ favoured food is snails.

Trees, shrubs and roses

In dry settled weather, all kinds of pot-grown trees and shrubs can be planted and planting of bare-root deciduous trees, hedging and shrubs can also go ahead. Where there has been a lot of rain, do not plant into heavy wet ground.


Bedding plants for spring colour should have been planted by now, but wallflowers, pansies and bachelors buttons could still be planted, especially if they are available in pots. Lift dahlias and begonias in inland areas, or cover with soil or compost to keep frost off.


Moss will grow in the coming damp months. An occasional mowing during winter is a good idea if the soil is not squelching.

If there is drainage under the lawn, check it is working at the outlet. Take the opportunity to get the lawn mower serviced.

Greenhouse and house plants

Give very little water to reduce the risk of grey mould disease. An electric frost protection heater will save tender plants, such as geraniums or fuchsias, in a greenhouse or unheated conservatory. Watch for a slow build-up of pests, such as greenflies.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

Tree, bush and cane fruits can be pruned during this time, if this has not been done already, but not plums or cherries which are pruned in summer. Dig over vegetable ground in dry weather. Plant new fruit trees and bushes. Control weeds, especially perennial weeds.

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