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Walker's Low catmint named perennial of year
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Those who have grown Six Hills Giant catmint will want to make room for Walker's Low catmint, the 2007 Perennial Plant of the Year. Introduced in 1988 in Europe, Walker's Low has become increasingly popular with each passing year.
I am impressed with the variety of plants chosen by the Perennial Plant Association. Some of my favorites have been Becky Shasta daisy, Firewitch dianthus, Butterfly Blue scabiosa and Sunny Border Blue veronica.
If you haven't grown catmint before, the first thing you will notice about Walker's Low is its crinkled, aromatic, silver-green foliage. The small 1- to 2-inch egg-shaped leaves with strongly toothed margins are in opposite arrangement on square stems typical of the family.
Although its name implies that Walker's Low is a dwarf catmint, it actually grows to 36 inches tall and spreads up to 36 inches. It is named for a garden, rather than for its habit.
Walker's Low is hardy in zones 3 to 8 and thrives in average, well-draining garden soil. Once established, it is drought- and salt-tolerant, resistant to deer and rabbit feeding, and has few pests or diseases.
This plant should be cultivated in a sunny site but will tolerate some shade in hot climates. It blooms almost continuously from May until frost if pruned back by two-thirds when initial flowers fade.
Taxonomically, Walker's Low catmint is a selection in the Faassenii Group of Nepeta, those catmints related to Nepeta x faassnii and thought to be a hybrid between N. nepetella x N. racemosa. Nepetas contain a chemical known as nepetalactone, which has a well-known invigorating influence on felines; however, some gardeners have reported that Walker's Low catmint is not as attractive to cats as are many of its relatives.
Walker's Low catmint has many uses in the landscape. It is a good companion plant for both early summer and late season combinations, pairing well with other Perennial Plant Association plants of the year like Coreopsis verticillata Moonbeam, Salvia nemorosa Mainacht (May Night), or Dianthus gratianopolitanus Feuerhexe (Firewitch). I love catmints with grasses, too.
Often cultivated in the herb garden, Walker's Low combines well with sages, thymes and silvery plants like lamb's ears. Some gardeners consider it to be a reliable substitute for lavender.
Catmint is a classic companion for roses -- its soft, blowsy habit camouflages the unattractive lower stems of roses. For a scene straight out of grandmother's garden, pair it with foxgloves, peonies, pinks and German iris.
In your wildlife garden, the catmint will be visited by a constant array of bees and butterflies. Use Walker's Low catmint as a border plant to outline a walkway, in the rock garden to cascade over rocks, or as a ground cover in a sunny location. It is a colorful partner in a container.
Walker's Low is easy to propagate by division or cuttings to spread elsewhere in the landscape. A mass planting will give the look of a rolling sea in the wind. Give it a try.