May 4, 2010

Have I Told You Lately That I Love Catmint?

Catmint (nepeta) may have been the first perennial that I found to be totally deer and rabbit resistant. Even better, nepeta x faassenii 'Six Hills Giant' is a great companion to almost all of the plants, shrubs and trees in my sunny garden.

Favorite Companions for Nepeta include:
Agastache ('Golden Jubilee' foliage)
Allium ('Purple Sensation')
Dutch irises
Ice plant
Roses (Knock Out® 'Radrazz')
Salvia greggii ('Dark Dancer', 'Autumn Sage')
Salvia ('Caradonna', 'May Night')
Yarrow ('Moonshine', 'Coronado Gold')
Verbena (verbena bonariensis, 'Homestead Purple')

Gardeners in zones 3-8 can grow catmint in full sun to part shade. Give both 'Six Hills Giant' and 'Walkers Low' at least three feet of width and allow for three feet in height when in bloom. There are many other varieties of nepeta for those who want to explore other sizes and colors.

Is there a downside to growing nepeta?

I don't have a cat to know if they love to roll on it. I may have too much of a good thing when it's time to trim the nepeta as it takes me several days. I trim it after the first bloom in order to get more flowers. When the season ends, I cut it back either in fall or wait until spring. The foliage mounds are much neater over the winter if cut back in the fall.

Outside of making the rounds to trim it—the nepeta can be ignored until time to divide it. 'Six Hills Giant' matures quickly and I divide the clumps (by shovel) every two years in the spring. 'Walkers Low' is slower to mature and I haven't divided the original clumps in three years.

As I am able to divide the 'Walkers Low', I will complete an edging along a garden path. I'm using creeping thyme as a placeholder until I finish the edge with nepeta.

With airy blue-purple blooms and lacy foliage, catmint is a also great filler for bouquets. I prefer to use 'Six Hills Giant' for bouquets since I can cut very long stems.

Although I can't really prove it, I am convinced that nepeta helps to repel gnats, houseflies and mosquitoes since we don't have any of those insects here, but can walk down the road and experience the bites. Good insects, such as bees and butterflies, love the nectar of the nepeta.

Nepeta is a versatile perennial as an accent, companion or edger. If you have the space, I highly recommend adding nepeta to your garden.

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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