Photo by Charles Mann
Few perennials are as reliable and versatile as catmint (Nepeta x faassenii). Equally at home in a cottage garden or a formal border, catmint grows 1 foot tall and 2 to 3 feet wide.
This hybrid forms a mound of sage green leaves topped by sprays of tiny lavender-blue flowers. After a big flush of flowers in May and June, catmint reblooms in late summer.
The 1-inch-long leaves with silvery undersides are pungently fragrant when crushed. Catmint is long living and hardy in Sunset climate zones 2 and 3. (Find your zone in the Sunset Plant Finder.) Plant it in a sunny spot.
As the name catmint suggests, cats adore this close relative of catnip. Plant some just for them to enjoy. Or to discourage cats from smashing the plant, poke short bamboo stakes into the soil every few inches throughout the foliage mound.
The variety 'Six Hills Giant' (to 3 ft.) is widely available, as are two shorter, white-flowered types: 'Snowflake' (14 in.) and 'White Wonder' (1 1/2 to 2 ft.). A darker blue form called 'Select Blue' was introduced by High Country Gardens (800/925-9387).