Thursday, 4 August 2011

Catmint...

Catmint, though never a centre-stage, star performer would win prizes for its supporting roles. Always dependable and always delightful, this hardy herbaceous perennial brings joy in a subtle and relatively subdued way for many months every year. More extrovert, flashier flowers burn up and out in a fraction of that time.

In spring, dense mounds of aromatic, grey-green, scallop edged leaves rise up. In time, their lengthening wiry stems finish in loose spikes of light blue flowers. Individually beautiful, they are too small to take note of. It is however the overall effect they create that is quietly enchanting. Growing up to three feet high and easily as much across, they create the wonderful form, feel and fullness of Lavender, which in our wetter, northern climate is difficult to create and maintain in the real thing. 

They begin their long display through the ‘June Gap,’ a difficult period to populate with bloom as spring flowers have mostly faded and the main flow of summer flowers is yet to come. For two full months they continue, then just as the first show begins to fade, new shoots push through and fresh flowers take over, rejuvenating the display until autumn brings all to a close. Tidy minded gardeners will shear the plants right back after the first flush to clear space for the second. Whilst those with a more relaxed approach enjoy seeing the old growth naturally covered in time by the new.
Undemanding, though preferring sun and well drained soil, these tough plants give good service year after year.  Minimal maintenance is simply the shearing off, rolling up and removal of the faded tangle of fibrous stems before new growth emerges in spring. Their lax, sprawling habit makes them ideal for edging along paths, steps and driveways where they can spill out to soften hard edges.
Bees and butterflies love this long lasting nectar source, bringing areas where it is used to life on warm afternoons and evenings. Cats apparently love it just a little too much. They get ‘high’ on its aromatic oils and often roll in ecstasy on the plants, squashing or even shredding them in their excitement. Fortunately, here at Levens, untroubled by our feline friends uncalled for attention, this humble performer thrives and for a hundred yards or more, borders the ancient bowling green in subtle and long lasting style.

10 comments:

  1. Thanks Chris, you have reminded me to take cuttings to extend the catmint in my border. I agree it is such a lovely plant and so good for softening the edges. BTW when we lived in Southport I learned woodcarving with your father. Have just found your blog, so will now spend some time exploring it, cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Pauline. Another one of Catmint's finest features is its complete ease of propagation from cuttings... Our hundred yards started life as a few cuttings I collected from Brockhole Garden.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Chris I think this is your most passionate post ever. I share the same feeling for nepeta though and loved your words to describe it. I don't even have to remember taking cuttings: I just find plants around (by seed or propagation) and move them where needed.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ah I love nepeta too. Lovely post and pictures. I'm hoping to border our small front lawn-to-be with nepeta and alchemilla along the path edges. Though I suspect it's going to be a fight with our two young cats...
    Sara

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Altroverde. Interestingly, these catmint seem to move themselves.... Although mostly planted a few years ago in the border at the bottom of low wall, now they are mostly found sprouting from the wall itself!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hillwards- I have yet to see a cat rolling in catmint, but perhaps that is because there are three dogs on site...

    ReplyDelete
  7. You write with such heart Chris, and just make me want to run right outside and move the catmint to a better location. It is an amazingly dependable plant, truly dazzling in the borders in your images. (You must take care to not step on any overdosed cats while you are gardening...)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Linniew. Strangely enough, it's the mice that make their homes amongst the catmint here. Perhaps they know any cats will be too distracted by the plant to bother with catching them...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Stunning! I just wish I had enough sun for my catmint to perform like that!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Motormouth- surely the sun shines on you! Perhaps a sneaky cat is abusing your catmint when you are not looking.....

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...