Sunday, April 7, 2013

A supposedly dumb thing I swore I'd never do

...but I just went ahead and did it anyway.

 I planted some mint.

Reader, in the ground.

But here is my thinking. There's this irregular bed along our back fence. It's too shady for flowers (branches from a neighbor's tree hang over the fence in that spot), but nowhere near too shady for weeds. Why not fill it with something nice-smelling and useful? Suddenly mint's aggressive habit seems like a feature rather than a bug.

Plus, I've been trying to grow mint in containers for the last few years and it hasn't done well. And when mint does do well in a container it doesn't really stay in the container anyway. (See also: full-fledged lemon balm plants growing in the area where my pot of lemon balm used to sit.)

I'm sort of hoping the mint might eventually fill some of that unfortunate 4-inch space between our fence and the neighbors'. I do feel a little bad about planting mint right near the property line, but:
1) if the neighbors are getting free mint, what do they have to complain about?
2) my mint is nowhere near as annoying as their barking-for-hours dogs.

Did you have any idea there were so many different varieties of mint? And they all taste distinct, really (I checked).

Good old peppermint, of course.

Chocolate mint.

Mojito mint, for cocktails. This one was a tossup between Mojito Mint and Kentucky Colonel. I'm not sure this was the logical choice, since we are a Bourbon household, but there you go. I'm amused that this picture is the one that came out blurriest!

Moroccan mint, for tea.

And Persian mint, for savory dishes.

There might even be room for one or two more varieties, if I come across anything interesting. Man, I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, I'm such a collector.

I'm really excited about working in the yard this year. There is a lot (a LOT) to do but I have some ideas about what to plant in different areas that I think are a little more sophisticated than what I've come up with in the past. And by "more sophisticated" I mean "more informed and likely to work, I hope."

Any increased confidence I feel now is the result of a lot of trial and error (emphasis on the error). I've had a hard time finding good advice about landscape design online--or in books, for that matter. Isn't that funny? Why is there no equivalent of Apartment Therapy for the outdoors? 

One idea that really appeals to me is using a lot of native plants, but instead of trying to create a very naturalistic landscape, aiming for a kind of English cottage garden effect. Or, related to this, juxtaposing native plants with non-natives in interesting ways. 

In the mint bed, for example, I also have a twinberry (Lonicera involucrata) and a hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula). Both are Pacific Northwest natives in the honeysuckle family. (The twinberry is the small bush at the left of the picture above, but I don't think you can see the hairy honeysuckle--it's a low-growing plant in the back-center of the bed.) I'd like to train the twinberry to grow along the chain-link fence--essentially, espalier it--and I'm hoping the hairy honeysuckle will weave through the fence as well. I think that would be really pretty with a mass of mint below.

What are you planting these days? Do you have any good sources for landscaping "how-to" on the Internet (or otherwise)?


  1. You know what, I think this is a great idea. We have barely any space for planting but we do have a narrow strip of dirt along the side of our driveway that could use some green -- a perfect spot for an aggressive plant that one can leave just completely alone.

  2. I don't know anything about mint or gardening, but I just planted some mint in a planter. I have this fantasy that I'll make my own peppermint tea. I had the containers on the windowsill for weeks, and they grew like crazy. Hoping they fill the box I put them in.

  3. An apartment building I lived in had mint growing in a small strip between the sidewalk and building and it always smelled so good when the landlords mowed it (they were the sort who let it get as long as possible before hacking it short). And hey mint is better than english ivy right?

  4. Alexis, yes, I think you should do it!

    Rita, I'm afraid I don't know enough about gardening to know why my container attempt failed--I know lots of people grow mint in containers so I hope and believe yours will be a luxuriant, teapot-filling succes.

    anotheryarn, you are right, mint is better than English ivy. I'm pretty sure ANYTHING is better than English ivy--even Himalayan blackberry.