Junior Walker CatmintNepeta x faassenii ‘Novanepjun’ (PP# 23,074)
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Junior Walker Catmint is a compact form of catmint, smaller and denser than older types, which stays full and upright for the whole season. It has lovely gray-green leaves that bring a neutral color to your beds, tying them together visually. The bright blue flowers are produced continuously from May to September, giving a unique and splendid look in the foreground of your beds, on slopes, at the top of walls, or spilling out of planter boxes. It’s perfect for season-long color in low-water gardens, and thrives in poor soil, dryness and sun. Pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the flowers.
Junior Walker Catmint grows best in full sun, and it will grow in almost any well-drained soil, including drier and poorer soils, and in urban gardens. Pests, diseases, deer and rabbits don’t bother it, and it tolerates salt-spray as well. Simply cut down in fall and it will re-sprout in spring, quickly filling in again. One of the simplest and yet most beautiful plants you can grow. The lack of seed production makes it non-invasive and longer blooming.
Getting the front of your beds right is an important and often overlooked step in giving your garden that ‘finished’ look. It adds a whole extra dimension, giving a rich and full look that can turn the ordinary into the outstanding. One of the ‘magic’ plants used by professional designers for this purpose is catmint. This hardy perennial forms billowing mounds of gray-green foliage topped for months with mauve-blue flowers. It becomes a cloud of glowing colors that is at the same time vibrant and yet neutral, blending and mellowing every other color in the spectrum, and diminishing any clashes you might have accidentally created. Nothing unifies your garden beds better than this plant, whether used as a continuous edging, or just dotted along the front of your beds, perhaps mixed with other low-growing plants. For hot sunny banks and retaining walls too, it’s a total winner – you just won’t believe how great it makes your garden look until you try it.
The only problem can be that some catmints grow too large, including the wonderful Walker’s Low variety, that despite its name can top 3 feet in height and 4 feet across. When you need the same look, but for a smaller space, that’s when junior steps in. Junior Walker Catmint struts it’s funky stuff, rocking your garden like it’s Motown in the 60s again. OK, maybe I am getting a bit carried away, but this smaller catmint, topping out at about 18 inches tall, certainly is perfect when ‘smaller but still great’ is what you need.
Junior Walker Catmint is a bushy herbaceous perennial plant dying down to its roots each fall, and re-sprouting the next spring. It grows into a mounding clump of stems, rising no more than 18 inches tall, and spreading out to as much as 30 inches across. The small oval leaves, an inch or so long, are a soft, neutral gray-green, thick and wrinkled, with pronounced veins. The leaves and stems are covered in fine silvery hairs, giving them a silvery-gray sheen as well, more pronounced in full sun and dry soil. From May to September, more or less continuously, the ends of every stem carry a long cluster of about 100 tiny flowers. These open in succession, keeping each head blooming for weeks. The flowers are a bright violet-blue, exactly between purple and blue, and an amazingly vibrant color that is unique and incredibly valuable in the garden. The whole plant has a delightful aromatic, minty fragrance, attractive to humans and also cats, although this isn’t the true catnip, Nepeta cataria, which is a much more powerful ‘cat high’. This plant is also attractive to bees, butterflies, pollinators and even to hummingbirds. It is a hybrid plant, so it won’t start sprouting from seeds, as some varieties can do.
Junior Walker Catmint loves the sun and heat, so it’s wonderful for all your sunny beds, as well as for areas of rock, gravel and poor soil. It transforms arid places into clouds of silver-blue beauty. Grow it edging beds, either on a lawn or a path or patio (don’t plant too close to the edge if it is lawn). Repeat it in clumps along your borders, and plant it on slopes, in the rows of retaining walls, or in planter boxes, as a ‘spiller’ with more upright flowers and shrubs. Your garden can never have too much of this wonderful unifying plant. For grouping and rows of edging, space plants 12 to 18 inches apart.
You will have no trouble or winter damage growing this plant anywhere from zone 4 to zone 8, and in zone 9 in the northwest.
Happy almost anywhere, plant Junior Walker Catmint in full sun, or in places with no more than an hour or two of shade each day. Too much shade will make it floppy and weak. Plant in any well-drained soil, including poor, drier soils, but avoid wet spots.
Deer and rabbits are repelled by the smell, and pests and diseases almost never trouble it, so Junior Walker Catmint is super-easy to grow. The simplest maintenance is just to cut it to the ground in late fall each year – it will sprout back vigorously the next spring. To maximize the flowering season it can be useful to trim it lightly once the first big display is fading. This will stimulate new, fresh, flowering growth and keep it tidier as well.
Of all the 250 species of catmint, Nepeta, growing from Europe into Central Asia, most gardeners consider a hybrid plant to be the most useful. This is Nepeta x faassenii, created in the 1930s by J.H. Faasen, a Dutch nurseryman. He crossed together, perhaps by accident, the dwarf catmint, Nepeta racemosa, a species from Iran and Georgia, with the lesser catmint, Nepeta nepetella, which grows in southern Europe and North Africa. There are several varieties, including Six Hills Giant and Walker’s Low, a plant found in Ireland, which despite its name can be 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide by mid-summer. Realizing the value of a smaller version, Michael Dobres turned his science training to the problem, at the Novaflora Biotech labs in West Grove, Pennsylvania. There he took stems of ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint in tissue culture and exposed them to low-level gamma rays, causing harmless but valuable mutations. Among the new plants he created was one that was very similar to ‘Walker’s Low’, but smaller in every way, with smaller leaves and a lower size. He named it officially as ‘Novanepjun’, and received a patent for it in 2012. It is distributed by Star Roses and Plants with the trade name Junior Walker which can’t be registered because of its similarity to the Motown recording artist, Junior Walker.
In extensive trials the compact form of Junior Walker Catmint has been proven to be denser and much less prone to collapsing than any other variety – grow it and you will see. Along with its continuous blooming, it’s a guaranteed garden star act. Don’t hesitate in ordering your plants, because it’s top of the charts and still climbing, and we won’t have it available for long at all.