Mints: A Family of Herbs and Ornamentals

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9780881927061: Mints: A Family of Herbs and Ornamentals
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Mints: A Family of Herbs and Ornamentals is the first book to survey the entire mint family (Lamiaceae or Labiatae), which includes a surprising variety of plants long valued for their herbal and ornamental uses, from rosemary, sage, and thyme to lavender and peppermint. Most mints are easy to grow, sometimes notoriously so, and highly resistant to pests and diseases, which adds to their garden value. Written in a friendly and accessible style, the book features chapters on history and lore, modern uses, cultivation, and distinctive characteristics and classification; a catalog of species and cultivars in 67 genera; and a glossary.

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About the Author:

Barbara Perry Lawton has served as editor and manager of publications for the Missouri Botanical Garden, president of the Garden Writers Association of America and weekly garden columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

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As the popularity of herbs continues to grow, gardeners increasingly plant true mints and other mint family herbs in mixed beds and borders, among vegetables, and among ornamental annuals and perennials. In the past, gardeners tended to create segregated sites—keeping vegetables among vegetables, herbs among herbs, and even annuals and perennials in their own separate places.

Although the old-fashioned vegetable garden with regimented rows and divisions is still with us, more flexible and daring gardeners will make vegetable gardens as decorative and attractive as their flower beds. To give a vegetable garden a more ornamental look and to increase its beauty and value, add mints to it and plant the vegetables in amebalike shapes rather than in rigid rows. Use mint in containers as focal pints or mix a few annuals in with the mints to provide color, contrast, and texture.

Some gardeners like to plant their herbs near the kitchen door, a wonderful and convenient plant if the area has full sun. Other, myself included, mix herbs in the plantings of perennials and annuals. Garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris), for example, whether variegated or in solid colors, makes handsome ground cover to border a mixed bed. Herbs can be used in the flower garden as well. Plants such as lavender (Lavandula), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), and sage (Salvia officinalis) offer gray-green foliage with interesting texture and growth patterns and provide good contrast and transition to bright-colored flowering annuals and perennials. Plants with gray-green foliage, like plants with white flowers, are valuable design tools for separating flowers that would clash if planted side by side. Gray-green foliage also makes a handsome contrast to green foliage.

Fragrance is an added bonus any time herbs are added to garden beds and borders. Placing some of the more aromatic mints at the edge of beds offers opportunities for brushing against them or reaching out to stroke the oil-bearing leaves. Add the true mints to gardens with filtered shade, whether in containers or directly in the ground. They perform well and help create an impression of coolness on hot afternoons.

Lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) works well as short borders at the edges of gardens. The plants spill out into paths where passersby can brush by them, creating a heavenly fragrance. Lemon thyme can also handle a small amount of traffic. Plant it in between stepping stones for another sort of fragrant path. Other aromatic herbs that can take some traffic include Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) and mother of thyme (T. serpyllum).

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