There are many reasons to grow your own fennel, if your garden is big enough. You can cook with it (eating both the seeds and the plant itself), and it is adored by tiger swallowtail butterflies and finches. Here in San Jose, California, I have a patch of fennel that grows taller than our garage. For the last month, a flock of finches has been shrieking and gobbling happily in our fennel. Once the plant has seeded and dried out, John cuts it to the ground, leaving the bulbs to grow again in the spring. Fennel is messy, propagates freely, and needs no water once established, so pick a big sunny spot for it to colonize.
I have been trying to take pictures of finches in my fennel but the birds fly away if I get too close (and from far away, my camera has trouble focusing on the tiny birds among the billowing green leaves and yellow seed heads).
Images Copyright 2009 by Katy Dickinson