So nearly two years ago now, I wrote a post in praise of the genus Pycnanthemum, the mountain mint.
I praised it for its pollinator attraction, for its toughness, for the attractive foliage. It’s as low maintenance as a plant gets—whack it down in mid-fall when it’s gotten woody, and you’ll find a low, glossy green mound of leaves starting at the bottom. In my climate, that mound of leaves is nearly evergreen. It’s a fantastic plant.
And I stand by all those statements, with, perhaps, one teensy smidge of a caveat.
Turns out if you plant P. muticum, “short-toothed mountain mint” in a tough, dry, miserable pile of clay, it is a fabulously well-behaved plant. It spreads by three or four inches a year, making a larger and larger clump. It resists direct strike by UPS truck. It’s awesome.
If, however, you are foolish enough to have a spare chunk lying around and think “Oh, this will be perfect for my lovely recently created flowerbed, which is full of mushroom compost and six inches of beautiful, friable soil…”
It turns out, given optimal conditions, P. muticum throws aboveground runners like you would not believe. I spotted one, pulled it up, realized it was attached to the plant, actually took a close look, and discovered that the mint had devoured a dwarf goldenrod and was fighting an aster for dominance.
I have planted other mountain mints in fairly good conditions, and P. incanum doesn’t do that at all. P. tenufolium, given rich soil, just flops over. But P. muticum…goodness.
Also, since we’re talking about plant updates, camphor pluchea reseeds pretty heavily into wet soil. And Salvia coccinea reseeds like nothing I’ve ever met in my life, although it’s supposed to be an annual and may freeze out this winter. And Hyssop-Leaved Thoroughwort is also pretty crazy with the seeds, and I did finally find a pineapple sage seedling, after five years, and it turns out that deer will eat wild quinine if they’re hungry enough (or possibly worried about malaria.)
But my mind is still blown about the mountain mint. It was like discovering that your straight-A student happens to be a Mafia hit man after school.
Now, there’s a couple spots where, given the chance, I’d LOVE that behavior. (The plant. Not the hit man. Well, not in the garden. I suppose…no, we’re talking about gardening.)
Not so much next to the house. So I tore up the mint.
It took nearly an hour. There’s still roots left in the ground. I can only hope they won’t spawn.
So, be warned. Learn from my mistakes! Great plant! Still love it!
But give it all the water it wants, and…err…stand back.
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