Nepeta – A catmint that’s not just for the cats

Nepeta is a genus of approximately 250 species of perennial and annual herbaceous plants. The 2 cultivars I have selected are herbaceous perennials that provide me with the longest flowering period of any of my herbaceous perennials in my own garden.

For me it is especially effective in long summer evening that we have in Scotland during June and July. They are most commonly used at the front or the edge of a herbaceous border but can be effective used on their own in a gravel garden. I have also seen them used to good effect when planted on either side of a path or in front of shrub roses.

In 1988 the second cultivar was selected as the Perennial Plant Association’s plant of the year being successful in the following criteria, although both of the cultivars I have selected seem to perform equally well, particlarly compared to some of the other Nepetas that are not as robust in our cooler climate. Both are definitely plants I would not like to be without.

Suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions –  although these plants are ideally suited to a sunny spot with free draining soil, they appear to be very adaptable and can tolerate some shade under a tree and also seem to be quite happy on heavier clay soil in West Lothian for example. In West Lothian I have grown the plant in an exposed location and yet again, it seems quite tolerant of all that nature can throw at it.

Low maintenance – The only maintenance required is to cut back last year’s growth to ground level before growth starts in early spring. Some books recommend cutting it back after its first flowering to encourage a second flush but the plants I have just seem to keep flowering throughout the summer months.

Resistant to pest and diseases – It does have the potential to attract cats. Apparently only two thirds of cats are attracted to catmint and this can be a problem when establishing young plants but a temporary barrier can be erected until plants are established. If this problem persists then plants can be grown through a mesh cage to avoid a cat lying on it or you can insert some twiggy sticks into the centre of the plant before growth starts.

Multiple season of interest – Prolific blue followers lasting from May all the way through to the first frosts of autumn. Easily the longest flowering herbaceous perennial in my own garden.

Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ – (pictured above left) Small lavender blue tubular flowers held above attractive aromatic light grey green foliage. Described as being one of the best cultivars in cold situations and seemed untouched despite last year’s winter weather throughout the Lothians.

Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’ – This plant was named by the Perennial Plant Association as Perennial Plant of the Year in 2007. Similar to the above but very slightly lower than ‘Six Hills Giant’ has a tendency to be stiffer stemmed and a slightly deeper colour. Height 60cm by spread 60cm


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