The word perennial comes from Latin and means “throughout the year.” It is also defined as “enduring.” Varied and versatile, perennials have been part of the landscape for centuries.
It was legendary British gardener Gertrude Jekyll who is credited with popularizing the perennial or herbaceous border. Her concept was to create groups of plantings that would provide color and interest from season to season, and then return the following year to delight once again.
She had many perennial "pets," but singled out catmints (Nepetas) as “a plant that can hardly be overpraised.”
Of course, Ms. Jekyll could not have imagined the variety and colors of today’s hybrids when she was gardening in the 1880s, but she knew a good thing when she saw it.
A member of the mint family, nepetas are versatile, dependable, and particularly suitable for inexperienced gardeners. They also make charming bedfellows with roses.
Catmints (not to be confused with their relative catnip) generally aren’t bothered by pests or disease. They are deer-resistant and hardy in both cold and dry climates. They don’t need fertilizing.
And, depending on the variety, a vigorous pruning after the first flush of bloom will result in more spikes of eye-arresting color as summer unfolds.
Be careful not to overwater
Although catmints are touted as well-behaved and virtually care-free, they will quickly decline if their feet stay wet.
If your soil consists of heavy clay, you’ll need to add organic material to help with drainage. Catmints don’t need the extra nutrients, but they do require porous soil to thrive, and will not be happy sitting in water.
Other than soil considerations, there isn’t much to do except sit back and watch the show.
No wonder gardeners from beginners to grizzled, old veterans are saying they are simply the cat’s meow.
PSSST: Nepeta 'Walker’s Low' was dubbed Perennial Plant of the Year in 2007. The name refers to a garden in Ireland and not the plant's height, since it can top 30 inches. This beauty sports dark purple flowers and will rebloom without deadheading. In addition, Walker’s Low is not attractive to deer or cats, but butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds seek it out.
Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, is one of more than a dozen expert gardeners who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She's an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. After a recent move, she grows roses and other plants in her garden in the mountains of western North Carolina. To read more by Lynn, click here.You can also follow her on Twitter and read her Dirt Diaries.