Nepeta, or Catmint, is a member of the perennial mint family, extremely easy to grow, with few pests or problems. As an addition to the garden, it has billowing foliage topped with spikes of blue flowers in early summer, and repeating throughout the season. In fact, the lavender-blue varieties are often used as a substitute for lavender plants, where lavender is difficult to grow.
A distinct plant from the more familiar Catnip, Catmint is much less appealing to cats, which helps protect it from damaging feline rampages.
As a distinctly beautiful addition to the landscape, Catmint has slightly aromatic grey-green foliage with a delicate, lacy appearance. The flowers bloom on long graceful spikes. Catmint has a somewhat sprawling growth habit, which makes it lovely for edges and along paths, although a few tall-growing varieties like Six Hills Giant are more upright. Like many scented grey foliage plants, Catmint is said to be deer resistant.
Catmint serves as a classic underplant for roses. The colors complement each other and the Catmint foliage hides the bare knees of the rose bush. It also spills gracefully over walls and walkways, and softens spiky plants like yucca and iris.
Catmint thrives on neglect. In fact, too much fertilizer will make it grow too much lanky foliage. A lean soil and somewhat dry conditions encourage both flowers and its wonderful scent.
NOTE: During 2013, my monthly Arbor Gate Herb Picks will emphasize herb choices as great landscape additions. Many of them also have culinary uses, of course, but our focus will be on their visual, scent, and textural qualities.