Blue Wonder CatmintNepeta racemosa ‘Blue Wonder’
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Blue Wonder Catmint is a beautiful mounding perennial, rising just a foot or so tall, and spreading a little more. Smaller than most catmints, it is great for low edging and smaller spaces. The gray-green leaves make a fabulous foliage contrast with shrubs and other perennials, and the vibrant, dark violet-blue flowers look stunning, and last from last spring into fall. Both the leaves and the flowers blend perfectly with every other garden color, and help to tie together your beds, giving a unified look. Let it spill out of a bed onto a path or terrace, plant it on slopes and in rocky places, and anywhere that is hot, sunny and dry. It is also great in containers, and ideal for any low-water, xeric garden.
Plant your Blue Wonder Catmint in full sun, in any well-drained soil, including rocky and dry soils. It is resistant to pollution and poor soil, as well as salt-spray. Pests, diseases, rabbits and deer don’t normally bother it, and it grows vigorously anywhere. Simply cut it to the ground in late fall, and it will be back next year. Trimming after the first crop of flowers will encourage lots more.
Making the front of your beds interesting, so they look ‘finished’ can be tricky. Covering that soil at the front of a bed, and softening a hard edge with something tumbling and soft will make all the difference, whether your beds are filled with shrubs, or bright with flowers. Traditional low hedges can look old-fashioned, and they need lots of attention. Far better to front your beds with plants that mound and sprawl, and there is no better way to do that than with catmints. Their soft foliage, in a wonderful gray-green, is perfect with every possible garden color. The ‘pop’ of their bright blue flowers adds a glorious effect to the summer months, and again doesn’t clash with anything else you have planted. Repeated along a bed, either in clumps or a as continuous row, this great plant will magically unify your collection of shrubs and flowers – even if they are just a random group collected over the years. For smaller beds and where you want a low frontage, Blue Wonder Catmint is the go-to favorite, rising only a foot above the ground, while most others can reach three feet. Sun-loving, drought-resistant and super-easy to grow, you simply can’t beat it.
Blue Wonder Catmint is a hardy perennial plant, dying back to the roots each year, except in very warm zones, and re-sprouting vigorously to soon fill in again for the season. The soft stems grow rapidly in spring, spreading quickly to cover an area 1 or 2 feet across, and rising a foot or so into the air. Both the leaves and the stems are covered in fine hairs, and they have a unique gray-green coloring, which is most intense in full sun and drier conditions. The heart-shaped leaves are thick but soft, with pronounced veins, and they are less than one-inch long. The stems and leaves grow rapidly, soon filling in the space in a matter of weeks, once the first warm weather of spring arrives. The form adapts to the space, trailing down a slope, or sprawling across the hard edge of a pathway.
Flowering begins early, and continuous all through summer and even into fall, giving you months of amazing color. The flowers are no more than ½ inch long, but they are abundant, clustered along the top 6 inches of the stems. They are trumpet-shaped and a beautiful dark violet-blue that is the perfect color to compliment every other possible color in your garden. Flowers open in succession, keeping it blooming literally for month after month.
The whole plant has a wonderful minty-camphor smell when you crush a leaf or even brush against it gently. It shouldn’t be confused with the catnip (Nepeta cataria), but many cats do enjoy sniffing it and rubbing against it. Hummingbirds too, as well as bees and butterflies, gather to collect the abundant nectar, so it is a real magnet for wildlife.
Blue Wonder Catmint is perfect for all the sunny parts of your garden. Use it to edge a bed of shrubs or flowers, pulling it together as nothing else can. It looks great trailing out over a path or terrace, or along a lawn – don’t plant too close to the edge, or it will spill onto the grass. Plant it among roses (fabulous!) or with perennial flowers, or just by itself to fill a narrow space. Use at the top of walls, in the levels of terracing, and among rocks and over gravel. It is also great in planter boxes, and so versatile you can never have too much of it in your garden. For group planting or continuous edging, space plants 8 or 9 inches apart.
You can grow the Blue Wonder Catmint even in zone 3, and also everywhere else except for zone 9 in the southeast.
You will find Blue Wonder Catmint no trouble to grow. Place it in full sun – maybe it will take an hour or two of shade each day but no more. The soil should certainly be well-drained, and even poor and sandy, but avoid wet places, especially where it is wet in winter. Otherwise, anything goes, and once established this is a great plant for hot, dry areas in full sun.
Not just easy to grow, this is a plant that pests and diseases leave alone, and deer and rabbits won’t usually bother either. Once a year, in fall, cut it back to the ground, leaving just an inch or so of stem. New spring growth usually sprouts from ground-level, and takes off rapidly. If you want to, you can pinch out the tips of the new stems to make it bushier, but it’s optional, and not practical for more than one or two plants. You can dead-head individual flower clusters, but it’s a lot easier to wait until most of the first blooming is over, and then trim it all over. It will soon be back with a fresh look and lots of blooms again.
One of about 250 species of catmint, the dwarf catmint, Nepeta racemosa, grows naturally in northern Iran and the Caucasus mountain in Georgia. Unfortunately, catmints are all similar, at least to gardeners, and the names are often confused. Many garden plants are hybrids between the dwarf catmint and the lesser catmint, Nepeta nepetella, a hybrid created in the 1930s by J.H. Faasen, a Dutch nurseryman. That hybrid is called Nepeta x faassenii. The variety called Blue Wonder is often listed as a form of that hybrid, but most experts think that isn’t correct, so we are sticking with it being a unique form of Nepeta racemosa.
To add to the confusion, Nepeta racemosa is sometimes called Nepeta mussinii by botanists, a name that some gardeners have then incorrectly used for Nepeta x faassenii. We don’t know any more about where Blue Wonder came from, or when it was first seen, but we do know what a beautiful and valuable garden plant it is.
If you don’t grow catmints in your garden, you are missing out. For smaller spaces Blue Wonder Catmint is the perfect choice, and you will wonder how you ever gardened without it. Order now and fall in love with the unique gray-green and blue combination it offers. This particular variety is highly desirable, and not widely available, so don’t hesitate.