The Perennial Plant Association has awarded Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Zones 3-8) the title of Perennial Plant of the Year for 2007. Named after its origins, not its growth habit, Walker’s Low catmint has silver-green crinkled foliage and a profusion of long-blooming, deep lavender-blue flowers. It’s low maintenance and aromatic, and supposedly disease- and pest-free.
I wonder – do they count cats as pests? Don’t get me wrong – I’m a cat lover and devoted mother of one (she’s sitting on my desk right now, actually, as she thinks she’s my managing editor) – but anytime I’ve planted any variety of nepeta, the neighbourhood cats turn my garden into a frat party! They roll on it, eat it, sleep in it… and just generally get high.
A few years ago, I came home with a tiny Nepeta faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant.’ Not ten minutes into the ground, the plant was suffering from the advances of the local cat posse. Not one to stand guard with a spray bottle, I caged the new plant in with a overturned wire basket and staked it down (since it is apparently just the very young plants that attract cats). Once the plant was established, I thought, I’d remove the cage and enjoy the flowers.
I came home the next day to find Jordie, a big black and white tom, totally stoned, inside the cage. He was on his back, legs slack and spread-eagled. I would say he was lounging, except the cage was smaller than he was so it was rather like he’d wedged himself in and then passed out. I wish I had a photo. God, it was infuriating. And cute, nonetheless. That was the last time I planted nepeta.
Photo via Walter’s Gardens.
beth lawrence says
I planted Nepeta in a customers garden in Toronto and mulched the entire area with shredded Cedar mulch. Within 2 years it had spread so voraciously i had to pull it out. This isn’t very common where the soil is not mulched, but if you have new lovely top soil beware. I find that clay soils are the best for controlling the spread. Which we have plenty of in Toronto. I love the scent,and the flowers last for weeks and sometimes months. A huge fan in the right spot.
Lol… I got a kick out of your post. Sounds like the neighborhood cats were probably disappointed once their favorite “dealer” went out of business. :)
Your description of that ‘high’ cat was too funny. I have some catmint but haven’t noticed it attracting cats… wait there is that one cat I see in the mornings…
It’s very beautifull and does exist here.
It’s very beautifull and does not exist here.
Wow–I love WALKERS LOW but it does self-seed and billiously spread like something from a sci-fi movie. I mean, a person could be more cursed in life I guess–by classification Nepeta *walkers low* is pretty much ever-blooming, it’s no maintenance, drought tolerant once established, pest free and a fab replacement for the european LAVENDER look if the short period of lavender bloom is a point of contention for you…. I think because it’s so easy to divide and also because the wee starlings are so easy to transplant I will have my own spring ‘perrennial divisions’ plant sale–Hell, why not spread the low maintenance high reward love?
Effects on cats
Catnip and catmints are mainly known for the behavioral effects they have on cats, not only domestic cats but big cats also (lions, tigers, leopards, etc.). When cats sense the bruised leaves or stems of catnip, they may roll over it, paw at it, chew it, lick it, leap about and purr, or heavily salivate. Some will growl, meow, scratch, or bite the hand holding it. Some cats will eat dried catnip. Often, eating too much can cause cats to be overtly aggressive, typically making them hiss.
A domestic cat demonstrating the effects of catnip such as rolling, pawing, and friskingAbout two thirds of cats are susceptible to catnip. The phenomenon is hereditary; for example, most Australian cats do not react to it. There is some disagreement about the susceptibility of lions and tigers to catnip.
Catnip has nepetalactone, a terpenoid. Nepetalactone can be extracted from catnip by steam distillation. Cats detect it through their olfactory epithelium, not through their vomeronasal organ. At the olfactory epithelium, the nepetalactone binds to one or more olfactory receptors where it probably mimics a cat pheromone, such as the hypothetical feline facial pheromone or the cat urine odorant MMB.
Other plants that also have this effect on cats include valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and plants that contain actinidine or dihydroactinidiolide (Smith, 2005).