The low down on Walker's Low

diggingthedirtJune 26, 2011

I love Nepeta, and have a long (for me - maybe 16 feet) swath of Walker's Low all along the long side of a brick patio. To my eye, it's really stunning, from the time it leafs out until right about now, when the first flush of flowers fades and the plant flops horribly, revealing its shabby center.

The flowers, at this point, actually keep a fair amount of color, and new ones are still forming, but the overall look of the plants gets more dismal by the day. It has to be cut down, but this leaves a very sad, injured looking row of nearly bare 3 inch stems. It will take at least a week for new leaves to appear, and then there will be a second flush of flowers, not as spectacular as the first, but ... still very nice.

Do you cut back your Nepeta? Is it in a prominent spot? Do you have a secret for dealing with the bare stems right in the middle of garden party season? Is Walkers Low the worst of them all in this regard? My other varieties don't seem to be so bad, but they don't really compare in bloom power and vigor, and they're not in such prominent positions, either.

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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

DTD, I have a love/hate relationship going with our Nepeta 'Walker's Low'. Mine does the flopping and I moved it from 5hrs of sun to full sun thinking that would take care of that, but it didn't. It still flops. I have it in a bed with other perennials and it makes a mess of the neighboring plants too. Right about now, it's starting to look awful. It's been raining and that makes it worse. I tried cutting mine back after the first flush last year, but really the plant looked awful for so long, and then the rebloom was insignificant to me. I read someone's post that they didn't cut theirs back and thought it kept blooming through the season, so this year, I am letting it play itself out and see how that compares. If I'm still unhappy with it, I will have to figure out something. Since it is only one plant, I might consider giving it support, otherwise, I may have to give up on it and find a substitute. Maybe another Perovskia.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 9:46AM
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I cut mine back halfway about a month ago to see how they did - bloom-wise and support wise. I have two WLs.

I put one in a gro-thru support. That certainly keeps it upright, but any stray stems are nearly horizontal, so there is a "habit gap" that doesn't work well close up. The one not in a support looks fine - especially with several days of rain. I just took a picture of both. Will post tonight. In a hurry today.

Both have been blooming a week or so, so I don't think I altered the bloom times that much.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 10:43AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Hi DtD, I like this plant very much and have it bordering a small corner fence near the drive. This was June 3 at its happiest:

There are about 10 plants scattered about the property, even surrounding a clump of Heritage Birch with echinacea purpurea in between, bees are happy all summer. I do shear them twice a year with electric hedge clippers (gasp): once around the beginning of Aug. and the second time is nearly to the ground after all the leaves are mulched - end of Nov. The second flush in Aug/Sept isn't bad IMHO, so I think this plant really pays its rent and the cat loves a little high ever day.

Today, like the KO roses, nobody looks at their best after the first flush, but when we get more sun and drier days, the WL picks up and the new growth is now beginning from the center:

This plant makes too many things happy for me to rip it out just because it goes limp for a while. It is always covered with bees and hummingbirds. I have Artemesia Powis Castle at the end of the drive which is so big and happy in full sun and dry soil. But it doesn't bloom and no bees or birds are attracted to it. Perhaps interplanting your row of catmint with a taller flower, e.g. echinacea, would help?

The blossoms are beginning so the wait for richer color between the WL first flush and the opening of the coneflowers is only, maybe 2 weeks.

Just and idea. Best, Jane

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 11:58AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Very pretty effect along your fence, Jane, and I love all the bloom in the background. Is that your rhododendrons that you moved?

Jane, I'm curious. I knew it was catmint, but I didn't realize it was the same one that cat's like. Do cat's just smell it, or rub themselves on it? What kind of effect does it have on them?

We are watching a family member's cats right now and they are indoor cats and I wondered if I could bring a few stems in the house for them. If I gave it to them, do I have to be careful they don't eat it or anything?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 2:26PM
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capecodder(z6 MA)

I was just thinking yesterday that it might be time to get rid of WL. It didn't sprawl until recently, but it certainy looks awful, and if I cut it back, that section will have bare spot. On the other hand, the globeflowers and daylilies behind it will be visible. Guess I'll cut it back and see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 2:34PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Hi PM2, Yes, that is part of the rhody border in the background and yes, the cats do all that you mentioned: Roll in it, eat the leaves, and lay in the middle of it if they feel like it - something I do not encourage. Take a few leaves, pinch/pierce them with your fingernail to let the aroma really come out, scrunch them up and offer it to the cat. If he/she eats the leaves, or rolls in them, fine. It's like a glass of wine I guess, evens out their world for a little while. Ivy (my Siamese) follows me to the mail box every morning and waits for me to grab a couple of leaves which she smells and then follows me back to the porch where she downs them in a single gulp. She's 10, it's routine. Sorry to take up your post, DtD,just trying to help another cat get high, lol. It's safe, PM2. Some cats do, some don't.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 5:36PM
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I cut mine back yesterday. It looks pretty bare, but the patio's now about 2 feet wider than it was on Saturday - that's how much they were sprawling. I left the piles of cut foliage all day, because the bumblebees were having so much fun with it and also because it smelled fantastic.

I did this early in the day when it was misting out, and wore thick rubber-covered gloves, to avoid bee bites. I tried to be careful and leave some of the new central growth - the plant does tend to renew itself.

I also have a love-hate relationship with this plant, but it's tending more towards the love side at the moment! Thanks for all the feedback - lots to consider here. I'll see if I can track down a photo of the height of the WL display in my garden, and add one of the low point, which would be right about ... now.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:36AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Jane, your Rhodie border is such a success! Love the amount of bloom you have on them. Lucky you. I brought a few leaves in for the cats and rubbed them between my fingers first, they were not impressed. lol They took one whiff and jumped back. Too funny. I may give it another try with a stem of them.

"Sorry to take up your post, DtD,just trying to help another cat get high, lol."
LOL I so enjoy your sense of humor, Jane. :-)

I'm not cutting mine back again this year. I think I may try a hoop next spring. Good timing on this thread, thanks DTD

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:58PM
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Missed this post the first time around, but wanted to add my two cents
worth. Nepeta has certainly earned it's place in my garden over the
past 15 years, but here are the two things that evolved while trying to
control it's flopping habit:

1. Like many folks, I started with "Walkers' Low", naively assuming it was
low - it's not. So research led me to "Blue Wonder", which is about
half the size, and the bloom time is quite long here in Z.6b

2. For me, the most successful trick has been to plant the Nepeta BEHIND
another plant, preferably something sturdy, such as a Sedum "Autumn
Joy" or even a small shrub - then it flops against the supporting plant,
as well as flopping around it, creating a kind of blue halo effect. It is
also the underplanting of choice just behind all my rose bushes. . .

And if anyone's looking for a way to "deter" cats from rolling in your Nepeta,
an old-timer taught me this: place three fist-sized, sharp-edged stones
at the base of the plant. . .not really visible once the plant fills out in the
Spring, but the annoying feral cats in my neighborhood certainly got the
message. Guess you could say that instead of a pleasant catmint "high",
they ended up getting "stoned". . .

Gak! That was dreadul. . .


    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 2:00PM
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Hi Carl - I have lots of Blue Wonder, WL, and a few 6 Hills Giant, all within sight of our main patio, on different sides of an L-shaped border. That gives me a really long bloom season, because BW starts a few weeks before WL.

My WL has come back really nicely since I cut it back on June 26; there are a lot of plants behind it, mainly hydrangeas, corsican hellebores, and daylilies, so after I cut it back & cleaned up the area with some fresh bark mulch between the WL crowns, it didn't look too bad. Now it's about 1 foot tall and wide, and has lots of flowers again - not quite as nice as the first flush, but definitely a blue blur along the patio.

Blue Wonder is nice, and definitely quite a bit shorter! It still needs to be hacked back, eventually, at least in my garden, because it sprawls and gets a fair amount of dead foliage over time. I actually just cut it back yesterday, even though it was mostly finished blooming a long time ago - I have lots of guests coming in a couple of weeks, and I'm hoping it will tidy itself up and flower again.

Jane - I love your nepeta along the fence! Nepeta really does take to being planted in long drifts - my 6 Hills is interplanted with too many other things and it never really shows itself off well.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2011 at 9:54PM
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