May 14, 2008

Nepeta: The Perennial that Goes with Everything

While we suffered a long drought from last summer until March, the recent rains have been frequent and substantial. Coming back from our vacation in France, I've been enjoying the progress of the garden. The perennials, shrubs and even some return annuals are growing great. When I consider that 98% of the outer garden was created in Spring 2007, the results are encouraging and very enjoyable.

Rains make for great weed pulling conditions with the moist soil. After heavy rain all day Sunday, I spent at least three hours pulling weeds on Monday morning. With the weeds once again under control, I've been catching up with my photographs.

Throughout my garden, I've used nepeta extensively. It was the first plant that I found to be deer resistant. However, I've come to love it for so many reasons other than it's pest free attributes.

Nepeta just seems to work with almost every color combination. It's still my #1 choice as the most reliable, longest-blooming, drought tolerant and deer proof plant in the garden. Nepeta blooms early enough in April to have some overlap with Dutch Iris.

The nepeta at the back of this photo was just a tiny seedling from another plant last year. I seem to always underestimate the amount of space needed for nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' or 'Walkers Low'. Just to the left is an osmanthus goshiki shrub that has tinged bronze new growth that will be yellow and green variegated in a few weeks. The rosey plumes are salvia 'Rose Queen'. There's a gaura stuck in there to the right, but it's not yet in bloom. In front is a hypericum 'Albury Purple'. I love the foliage of the hypericum, but the success rate has been mixed with that variety.

That same nepeta in the above photo is also in the next photo. In this instance, the color and size of the nepeta buffer two color schemes that wouldn't work together. Actually, these gaillardia were mislabled and turned out to be a color other than what I expected. However, the nepeta is separating the colors until I can transplant these gaillardia to the butterfly garden next year. I actually love the color of nepeta with orange and will include it with the tithonia that I've planted in the butterfly garden.

The verbascum in this photo has been in place for two years. It didn't perform too well at first, but this year, it's looking good. It is growing at the junction of the outer garden path and the flagstone walkway to our front garden gate. Once again, you can see the nepeta in the background across the walkway.

Nepeta is used for continuity along one side of the outer garden path. I once read an article about displaying artwork in a hallway inside a house. The advice was to place all the art on one wall so that a person can focus on the art without having to look back and forth on each wall. So, my idea here is to use the nepeta to create a simple scheme along one side of the path while mixing up the colors and vignettes in the larger side of the garden. The plants behind the nepeta are also continuous. I'm watching how this works out. It is my hope that the looseness of the nepeta and roses keeps the rows from looking too formal.

This is another view of the same pathway nepeta. Those are carrisa hollies outside the fence and Knock-out roses inside the fence. The hollies and roses were planted by the landscaper who installed our fence. At this point, the deer haven't touched the roses that are falling outside the fence (knock on wood). However, this is also the first time that nepeta has been this large and in bloom along the fence by the roses.

On the east side of our garden there is a mass planting of salvia greggii 'Navajo Red'. Once again, a nepeta to one side of the planting provides a frilly backdrop for the red of the salvia. Both perennials are favorites with the hummingbirds.

I have several other types of nepeta that I'm trying this year. One variety, nepeta subsessillis, works in moist areas. I have it in blue and rose. I have another small pink nepeta as well. Once I have sufficient information and experience with the other varieties, I will provide an update.

So, if you are looking for a plant with the following attributes, consider nepeta 'Six Hills Giant' or 'Walkers Low'.

Full sun
Attracts hummingbirds
Attracts butterflies
Deer resistant
Rabbit resistant
Japanese Beetle resistant
Drought tolerant
Long bloom season
Easy care (trim it between blooms with a hedge trimmer)
Easy to divide
Easy color to use
Large, frilly structure

Happy Gardening!
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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