Tag Archive: nepeta


WP_20150521_15_40_07_Pro I think it must be three weeks since I was last at Blickling. I got a chance to look around at the end of my working session and there were several highlights I hadn’t seen before, most notably the Azaleas round the Temple, the wall-trained Wisterias, the masses of Forget-me-Nots and Honesty in the Dell and some of the colour combinations in the double borders; especially the Tulip ‘Queen of Night’ and the black foliage of Mongo Grass and Black Elders.

My fellow volunteers were bit thin on the ground this week, and the gardening team pretty much seemed to be tied up in interviews all day, so we were left to our own devices! But the task was simple, weeding in the rose borders in the main Parterres. I went to work with my hoe (I really enjoy this task) and though the borders were pretty clear, there were a few odd weeds (including patches of Oxalis which the other volunteers dug up) and some edging of the grass to be done.

The session was punctuated with chats to vistors who were very complimentary about the gardens. One couple from Bury St. Edmunds envied us the light soil we have in this area- they have to tackle thick clay.

Head Gardener Paul informed us that the National Trust Gardens advisor had recently visited and was full of praise for the gardens and what the whole team had achieved; that was good to hear.

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Work in the Walled Garden has continued with the hard core for the main paths being laid and consolidated. The next job is installing 800 metres of metal edging- I don’t envy the Team that job!

Further Information:

Blickling Hall website

Blickling Hall Facebook page

A 360 degree tour of Blickling Hall

Old School Gardener

 

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Califorinian Poppies- a possible addition to the new front border
Califorinian Poppies- a possible addition to the new front border

To Walter Degrasse

Dear Walter,

I write this month about lots of gardening related activity, but not so much ‘direct action’ in Old School Garden. The past few weeks have remained relatively mild here in Norfolk, only the slightest of frosts having affected us to date. I think this weather has been one of the reasons I’ve felt able to leave off doing some of the garden jobs I might have gotten on with in other years; leaf raking, dahlia digging, plant moving, bulb planting etc.

Even though the greenhouse is more or less set up for winter with its bubble wrap insulation and electric heater, I haven’t yet hooked the latter up and certainly haven’t felt the need to get it going. The greenhouse now has our Pelargonums, Echeveria and tender pot plants all set out for their winter repose.

You remember the border of old English Lavender as you come into our drive? Well, I decided this has now got to be so ‘leggy’ and large that it was time to take it out and go for something fresh. I’m experimenting a little here, as I’ve transplanted a few Sedum plants  (some of a spectabile variety I salvaged from Peckover House, whilst working there), and these are fronted by some divided Nepeta (‘Catmint’) to mirror a similar edge on the other side of the drive. I’ve spread the Sedum around a bit and inter planted them with the four packs of tulip bulbs I bought in Amsterdam recently.

My hope, then is that the white, violet and blue heads of these will give a good spring show and once these are over I’ll put in some annuals to complement the violet flowers and glaucous foliage of the Nepeta- possibly some Californian Poppies as their shades of orange and red will give a real burst of interest in high summer. I migth also add some grasses (Stipa tennuissima for instance), and some Nerine bulbs that could do with replanting.  These should both work well with the Sedums for some late Autumn colour and interest. I’ll post some photos of this border as the season progresses so that you can see how the plan works out in practice!

Today looks like good plant moving weather, so I think I’ll try to tackle another area at the front of the house, by moving some Perovskia (Russian Sage) to a more suitable location fronting  our big laurel hedge (and with some further Sedums in front to help this rather lax performer stay upright), and possibly plant the remaining 40 bulbs we got from Holland, along with some more Sedum (‘Herbstfreude’) to the front of the house.

I won’t repeat all my other ‘garden related’ news here as you have probably been reading about this in other articles:

  • Trips to Portugal and Amsterdam including lots of interesting garden visits

  •  Completing the courses I’ve been running on ‘Grow Your Own Food’ and ‘Garden Design’, both of which seem to have gone down well with the participants. I hope to be running further courses in the New Year.

  • Doing a ‘mystery shopper’ inspection of a Country Park near here as part of the ‘Green Flag’ scheme.

  • Very satisfying reports on how some of the money raised at the opening of Old School Garden back in July has been used to fund food growing projects in Norfolk under the ‘Master Gardener’ programme.

The splendid ceiling of the bandstand in Estrela Gardens, Lisbon- a highlight of a recent visit
The splendid ceiling of the bandstand in Estrela Gardens, Lisbon- a highlight of a recent visit

Come to think of it, I haven’t said much of late about my voluntary efforts at the local primary school and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. We’ve had some very productive sessions at the school,  with children planting three apple trees in the orchard , weeding and digging over the soil in preparation for next year, sowing broad beans, onion sets, garlic bulbs and some green manure (the latter doesn’t seem to have germinated, probably down to the age of the seed). I’ve been heartened by the children’s enthusiasm for gardening, and I’m getting to know some of the real characters at the school- it’s always a joy to be greeted so enthusuastically when I arrive at the school!

At the recent ‘open day’ one parent commented on how excited her child was when he brought home a runner bean seed in all its wonderful purply violet colours and one pupil who had sown some broad bean seeds in paper pots at this event, proudly presented me with one plant as ‘an early Christmas present’! A couple of ‘Garden Gang’ events have also resulted in the garden being tidied up, more progress being made on our plastic bottle greenhouse and the plumbing in of water butts from the garden shed to help with water supply. Parents are regular helpers at these sessions.

I’ve also had a sort through the school’s seed collection. This was an interesting exercise, there being many packets (and several of these unopened) dating from 3 or more years ago. I’m tempted to give some these a go next year, though there are many packets where I suspect the seed is just too old to bother with. Here’s a useful article about using old seeds.

Can you use old seeds?
Can you use old seeds?

At Gressenhall Museum the gardens are slowly fading into dormancy and time has been largely spent here managing the decline to keep the borders presentable, planting up some new entrance barrels with bulbs and pansies for spring interest, as well as helping with other routine tasks such as raking out leaves and excess plants from the wildlife pond, weeding, and mulching the extended front entrance border with compost to help improve a rather poor soil. I think I’ll put in one more session here to complete the tidy up and them things can be left until the spring.

Well, Walter, that’s about the sum of my efforts over the last month, and you’ll probably award me only 5 out of 10 for what I’ve actually done in Old School Garden!

Hopefully today I can make inroads to the remaining jobs and then spend some time working out my priorities for the next couple of months. I know this list will include reorganising the outside sheds, installing a barrier made out of pallets to support the border in which my fan – trained cherry and plum are starting to get established and ordering seeds for next year. The latter will involve paring down the current list from my excited first look at the catalogues! I must remember to check the seeds I already have, including some purchased on the trip to Ryton Gardens a few weeks ago.

I was pleased to hear that you’ve more or less managed to get your autumn garden tasks done, especially as you’ve had a few more frosty days than us. What are your plans for Christmas? Is there a chance that you could both drop in to see us for a weekend before the festivities really kick off? We’d love to see you both!

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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Tulips in planter May 2013I’m quite pleased with the way some planters I made are currently looking  in Old School Garden. I made two of these planters for our Courtyard Garden and last autumn replanted them.

Made from a combination of decking planks screwed to corner posts  and topped off with cheap trellis frames, I painted them black and half- filled them with broken up polystyrene and then soil/compost on top.

They are currently sporting two varieties of Tulip (one a sort of ‘raspberry blush’ colour the other more ‘strawberries and cream’!), which I think look good against the black paintwork and especially in early morning sun.

Last year I had a surfeit of Nepeta which had grown like topsy and was sprawling over large parts of our main mixed borders. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like the way plants like Nepeta (and Geraniums) sprawl over the edges of borders, softening up the straight lines of the lawn or the mowing strip of a path we have alongside the borders. But these Nepeta were seriously taking over large parts of the border, so I divided (and hopefully now rule) them, replanting several pieces of root in the black planters.

This was after I’d seen a wonderful example of how you can use such plants in a Devon garden near my mother in law’s house. Here, the neighbour had used them as a wall topper alongside a path. This had the effect of raising the flowers (and all the insects they attract) closer to eye level and also allowed their sprawling habit to cascade down the side of the wall and provide a wonderful minty, fragrant burst as you brushed up against them.

So, I’m hoping that my replanting in the black planters will bring me some summer colour, fragrance and insect interest to follow on from the Tulips – the plants seem to have taken successfully and are looking promising. I’ll plant some climbing Nasturtiums behind them to add a yellow-orange backdrop on the trellis, which should complement the purply- lavender flowers of the Nepeta well. I’ll post some more pictures of the summer show later in the year.

Old School Gardener

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