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Advice & More April 2015

The Midnight Gardener

Mighty Mint

By Lori Rose

Call them eager, call them persistent, call them invasive – mints are garden thugs. Keep your mints in containers.

Mints are such lovely and fragrant plants and there are so many different flavors and scents to choose from. A mint collection will give the garden a variety of leaf and flower colors. They thrive in sun and well-drained soil, but you’ll find that they thrive just about anywhere. In fact, they are so happy to be alive that over the course of a couple of growing seasons they will colonize and try to take over the entire garden, forcing other plants out. This is all right if you’d like your entire yard completely covered with mints, but since most of us do like our other garden plants, this is not all right. Call them eager, call them persistent, call them invasive – mints are garden thugs. Keep your mints in containers.

If you choose to bury a pot of mint in the garden, remove it every spring and cut out half of the plant. Also cut off half of its roots, and then repot it. Once the roots get through the drainage holes, they will creep up to the surface of the soil and, free at last, will take over your garden. The only care mints need is being kept in bounds. So, don’t forget to keep your mints in containers.

Here are some mints to choose from to grow and enjoy.

  • Black mint is a variety of peppermint. The main difference is simply one of color; the leaves and stems of black peppermint are a dark purplish brown while those of white (regular) peppermint are green. Black peppermint produces more oil than the green variety but it is said to be of inferior quality. The oil is used medicinally to relieve sickness and nausea, and its strong flavor and smell make it widely used to disguise the more unpleasant taste of other drugs. Black mint has been grown commercially for its oil from as early as 1750. It has mauve flower spikes. Peppermint tea is usually made from black peppermint. The leaves can either be used on their own or dried and mixed with ordinary tea.
  • Apple mint has a less invasive growing habit than the others, but don’t trust it outside a container. It has a pleasant fruity taste and is sweeter than other mints. Also known as round-leaved mint, it has wrinkled round leaves with an apple-like scent. It has lilac and cream flowers in late summer. Dried apple mint leaves retain their scent and make excellent potpourris.
  • Pineapple mint is a variety of apple mint, but has green and white variegated leaves that make it a pretty herb to grow, even in the flower garden, in a container. It makes a lovely food garnish. Pineapple mint has long spikes of pale white to cream flowers. Try adding the leaves to fruit cups and punches.
  • Ginger mint comes from a cross between corn mint and spearmint and has the strong scent of the latter. Bright yellow stripes run through the leaves of the variegated form. Ginger mint produces smallish light green leaves and small pale purple flowers that bloom along the main stem rather than at the end of the stalk like other mints. It is also known as slender mint and Scotch mint and when it’s dried the scented leaves are a nice addition to potpourris.
  • Orange mint, lemon mint, chocolate mint, even banana mint – all are fun and unique, all are refreshing to drink or add to face masks or steams. Try substituting half of the basil with your favorite mint in pesto recipes. Crush a few leaves and steep them with sun tea. Add a few sprigs of mint to fresh flower arrangements. If you like a mint growing in a friend’s garden, cut or break off a sprig at least six inches long and put it in a glass of water when you get home. It will form roots and be ready to pot up within a week.

Grow mints. They’re easy-care, pretty and fragrant plants. They are very edible and drinkable. Just remember to keep your mints in containers.


Lori Rose, The Midnight Gardener, May all your weeds be dandelions from a child

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