No gardener should be without an herb garden. No gardener should be without a cat. With these two provisos one can also state no garden is complete without a bit of Catnip. Catnip (Nepeta Cataria ) is a rather pretty plant growing in bushy mounds around two feet high with serrated, oblong, slightly fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves of a grayish green hue. They produce long spiky flowers in violet and white which attract bees by the hive-full.
Catnip grows well in any good garden soil, preferring it slightly dry and in full to partial sun. It is very easy to grow from seed and readily available at garden centers both as seeds and plants. The true gardening enthusiast won’t deem it only suitable for the herb garden. It makes a lovely addition to any perennial bed, wildflower patch or cutting garden. But there is no denying that the Catnip deserves a place of honor in the Herb garden.
It has a wonderful scent and makes a soothing tea good for digestive problems, as a muscle and nerve relaxant and to promote good sleep. I prefer to use spearmint, chamomile and lemon balm for my herbal teas and leave the Catnip for my cats but when insomnia hits as it often does I say the heck with the cats and I steep some Catnip for myself.
These plants, while easy to grow, can be a challenge to maintain if you let your cat wander around the yard or if your neighbors do. Cats tend to like rolling around in it essentially snuffing it out prematurely. Some people refer to the Catnip plant as Kitty Marijuana but supposedly only three quarters of felines respond to its intoxicating scent. My four cats are in the majority. I have a tiny Catnip plant growing on the window sill over the winter months for the occasional kitty treat but I had to resort to covering it with an inverted heavy glass jar to keep the cats from devouring it.
Yes, most folks grow Catnip especially for their cats and at first I did too. Cats simply can’t get enough of the stuff. As a matter of fact the Catnip I planted in the cutting garden never grew to its potential because my cats kept knocking it down. I eventually had to place a chicken-wire cage around it to keep it safe. The cats stood vigil beside it all summer hoping it would grow beyond the protective boundary. To their chagrin I cut the whole thing down before it bloomed to provide them with a little thrill over the winter. I dried it and stored it in a jar. I let them nibble a bit every once in a while but I also use it to rub into their bedding. They love it. Some people also make stuffed toys using Catnip. What people won’t do for their pets, huh?
Just this past spring my son, a great cat lover, grew some Catmint (Nepeta Mussinii ) to see what the difference was between Catnip and Catmint. Not very much as it turns out. Catmint has larger leaves and a milder taste but the cats went nuts for it too. Catmint grows up to 18 inches tall with purple-blue flower spikes. Hopefully it can be protected too so we can enjoy it next year.
There is a vast number of Nepetas to try out and I’ve only given you two. Why don’t you do yourself a favor and get your own Catnip. Whether you have a cat or not, you’ll love it.
©2013 Glory Lennon All Rights Reserved