In the garden, catmints make purrfect perennial partners for roses.
Courtesy of Lynn Hunt
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.
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.