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Monday, 6 February 2012

My top garden plants - Catmint

Catmint (Nepeta) is an indispensable garden plant if you have one of these:

It will turn it into one of these:

No matter where you put it or try to hide it or protect it, they'll find it!

Ancient scanned photo!

Cats love catmint - it's like a drug for them and they'll eat it, roll in it and rub themselves all over it, act very protectively of it and turn into a drugged crazed loony which is always good value to watch - so if you have a cat do it a favour and get hold of some catmint - preferably several plants as it will get regularly squashed. It's remarkably resilient though and a bit of fluffing it up and it'll look good as new (ish) again in no time.

For aesthetic value in the garden, catmint of the low growing variety that I have (I think it is Nepeta x faassenii) is very pretty in the spring with a show of bright blue flowers. When they go over a bit you can give it a good old haircut and it will flower again on and off all the way through to the autumn. It self seeds quite easily once it is established and is very hardy and perfectly drought tolerant. They don't seem to need to be divided although they can get a bit big and bushy in time, but all the better for withstanding the cat treatment.

From a wildlife point of view the only butterfly I have seen taking an interest in it is the Swallowtail - but possibly it is because this butterfly is on the wing early in the year at the same time as catmint is in its first full flush of flowers.

However, if you want to do the bees a favour, even if you don't have a cat, grow some catmint! I've looked back through the photos I took last year and have so many different species of bees visiting it. I can't begin to identify all these bees - although I am on a mission to learn a bit more about them - but I hadn't realised until taking the time to watch and photograph just how many different kinds of bumble bee there are! There are some gorgeous ones out there but they are all really hard to photograph - I have many photos of lovely in focus flowers with a black and yellow or orange blur on them! Here's a few of the not quite so awful photos of bumble bees on my catmint. Honey bees like it too - or was that a solitary bee which looks like a honey bee?!!

This bee is gorgeous and is orange at its tail end.
Possibly male Bombus pratorum

A more bumble bee looking bumble bee

Here are some links for some good sites that help with bee ID. The Natural History Museum one is brilliant, even though I'm still unsure as to the ID of the yellow black and orange bee - but then I'm in NW France and I haven't even got to looking at any French bee sites yet! I will post more links as I find them and as I learn more about these wonderful creatures.


  1. Your photos are lovely. I want to play with the bumblebee. I do love them! I'm so happy Sarah told me about you. She told me what lovely photos you have of your flowers, and butterflies. She was so right, but they're even more lovely than I imagined. I so look forward to spring with your garden, and the visitors you'll have there. Have a beautiful week!

  2. Hehe, love the kitty pictures, so funny when they go all squirmy over it!!

  3. Ahh thanks both of you. NG you will make me blush! I have more photos from last year to post and then I will start all over again.... soon I hope!!