Tag Archive: catmint


Oh dear, first mud on a nice new floor...

Oh dear, first mud on a nice new floor…

My second Wednesday at Blickling was focused on the Walled Garden. Joined by three other volunteers (one of whom was also a newcomer to Wednesdays), we finished off shifting top soil onto the beds to level them up to the path edges.

So, more barrowing and raking for starters. The available soil had been shifted by the gardeners from the piles in the orchard next door, so we didn’t have far to go. But it was pretty strenuous, nonetheless. The space created will soon be (temporary) home to 100 tonnes of crushed Carr Stone- which will be used to surface the main paths in the Walled Garden.

Since my last session here, the Walled Garden has taken some further big steps forwards; rows of Catmint have been planted along some of the paths which will give a colourful, fragrant and insect-attracting floor to the trained fruit bushes, some of which had also been planted by the canes I had helped set out a few weeks ago.

The other big step is the finishing off of the new Bothy, from where, around mid morning, Project Manager Mike shouted ‘Tea time Team!’- I think this might have been the first time it had been used for refreshments (but probably not the first time Mike had made tea for the volunteers). I duly christened the new room -with it’s shiny spotted grey flooring specially chosen by Mike to hide the dirt!

'Tea time Team!'- Mike in the new Bothy...will it be too comfortable for our own good?!

‘Tea time Team!’- Mike in the new Bothy…will it be too comfortable for our own good?!

After lunch (taken, for now in the old bothy near the double borders), we finished off shifting manure to the beds where the soft fruit (Raspberries, Strawberries and the like) will soon be planted. I may be on trenching in this lovely stuff in my next session (back to Thursday). To finish off the day a couple of us raked over the new soil to avoid the expected rain panning the surface. Another group were finishing off the oak path edging which looks tremendous. Mike tells me he’s decided to turf these grass paths so that they can be used this season.

The final stretch of oak edging to the grass paths in the Walled Garden

The final stretch of oak edging to the grass paths in the Walled Garden

As I left for the day I had a quick word with gardener Rob in the car park, where he was about to deliver half a dozen large oak trunks to a sawmill in nearby Hevingham; these are going to be shaped into the posts for the lines of Raspberries, Blackberries, Tayberries etc.  which will be tied into wires strung between them.

So, some more lovely ‘home grown’ oak will add a touch of class (and longevity) to the Walled Garden. Mike says he’s glad that, at long last, he can soon stop being a builder and start being a gardener once again!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Crocuses looking good in the sun under the Oriental Plane Trees

Crocuses looking good in the sun under the Oriental Plane Trees

I had to change my day at Blickling this week, so was working alongside the Wednesday volunteers, some of whom have been in the gardens for over 10 years, and some, like me, have been inspired more recently by the project to regenerate the Walled Garden.

Our focus was the parterre. Gardener Ed gave us a quick course in rose pruning and we set off around the edges of four main beds.

Previous sessions had replaced the aging Catmint (Nepeta) which runs along side the rose beds. These contain a mixture of floribunda types, several of which are quite old and have lost their vigour…hmm, know what they feel like?

We made good progress, and by the end of the day we had pruned the roses, replaced about 50 old, weak specimens, watered them in (in bucket fulls of water taken from the central fountain) and I hoed over a quarter of the beds to finish off.

I gather from Project Manager Mike, that the fruit trees have arrived, so it could be that next week we’ll be focussed on planting them in the walled garden I’m also taking over my Garden Design group to do a practical session on transferring designs onto the ground.

The end of a sunny spring day..

The end of a sunny spring day..

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

Nepeta- soem varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta- some varieites are called Catnip or Catmint because cats love them!

Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of perennials and a few annuals, native to cool and moist to hot and dry habitats in scrub, grassy banks, stony slopes or in high mountains, in non tropical areas of the northern hemisphere. So as you can see, there’s pretty much a Nepeta to suit every garden situation!

Some members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their effect on cats – the nepetalactone contained in some Nepeta species binds to the olfactory receptors of cats, typically resulting in temporary euphoria!

They have sturdy stems with opposite heart-shaped, green to grey-green leaves. Nepeta plants are usually aromatic in foliage and flowers. The tubular flowers can be lavender, blue, white, pink, or lilac, and spotted with tiny lavender-purple dots. The flowers are located in ‘verticillasters’ grouped on spikes; or the verticillasters are arranged in opposite groups – toward the tip of the stems.

Nepeta can be drought tolerant, being able to conserve water. They bloom over a long period from late spring to autumn. Some species also have repellent properties to insect pests, including aphids and squash bugs, when planted in a garden. Nepeta species are used as food plants by the larvae of some butterflies and moths and as nectar sources for pollinators like bees.

Nepeta makea a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta makes a wonderful sprawling edge to an informal border

Nepeta can be grown in any well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Some species, like N. govaniana and N. subsessilis prefer moist, cool conditions, whereas N. sibirica likes it fairly dry. There are a few tall growing varieties, like ‘Six Hills Giant’, with a more upright habit. These need staking or support to see them at their best.  Most Nepetas will rebloom if sheared back after their initial flowering (N. x faassenii and N. nervosa for example). Some won’t provide much of a second show, but their foliage will be refreshed and tidied by the shearing.

Nepeta looks wonderful when covered in flower from early summer. The pale, often lavender-blue flowers perfectly complement the hairy, scalloped and wrinkled, silvery, blue-green leaves. The flowers appear as a haze of blue from a distance. It is often used as an informal, low hedge echoing the colours of lavender (and is used as a substitute where lavender isn’t hardy enough). But it has a rather lax form and will spread itself to cover its allotted space (and more!). Nepeta is best planted at the front of the border, edging a path, so that when you brush past it you will catch the full scent from its aromatic leaves. Nepeta is also a classic underplanting for roses. The colours complement and the foliage hides the ugly ‘knees’ of the rose bush.

We have some here at Old School Garden and this year I’m experimenting with it in some raised planters to try to get a cascading effect, as I’ve seen it used effectively this way on top of an old garden wall in Devon, though I suspect some varieties will have longer stems than others so are better suited to this treatment. The pastel blues of Nepeta combine wonderfully well with pinks and yellows, such as day lilies and yarrow (Achillea). It also looks good with Allium cristophii and Zinnia elegans ‘Envy’.

Some suggested varieties:

  • N. nervosa ‘Felix’ – Compact plant with vivid lavender-blue flowers. (12″ H x 24″ W)
  • N. x ‘Six Hills Giant’ – One of the tallest growing Nepetas, with lavender-blue flowers.(36″ H x 30″ W)
  • N. subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’ – Pink flowers with burgundy bracts. Likes a bit more water than most Nepetas. (2′ H x 3′ W)
  • N. racemosa ‘Walkers Low’– has 8″ spikes of lavender-blue flowers.  ( 2 H’ x 2′ W)

Nepeta faassenii 'Six Hills Giant'- foliage

Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’- foliage

Nepeta is one of those plants that thrives on neglect. Too much fertilizer will only make it grow lots of flimsy foliage. A lean soil and somewhat dry growing conditions will encourage both flowers and scent. Many of the newer varieties of Nepeta are sterile, producing no viable seeds. This is a plus if you don’t like the weedy, self-seeding habit of older Nepeta varieties, but it means you will need to either buy plants or make plants from divisions or cuttings.  Division is not a requirement, but if you’d like more plants divide it in spring or in autumn. The Royal Horticultural Society have given it their prestigious Award of Garden Merit.

Nepeta longipes

Nepeta longipes

Sources and further information:

Wikipedia

BBC – Catmint

About.com

One plant 3 ways- Nepeta design tips

Old School Gardener

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