selective focus photography of purple lavender flower

Lavender vs. Catmint: A Sensitive Subject

When trying to cultivate a haze of purple in a garden, people often gravitate towards lavender. This mounded, flowery shrub smells amazing, it’s gorgeous, and it’s medicinal for our digestive systems and nerves. Grandmas all over the country sit in their rocking chairs, crocheting lavender sachets for their restless grandchildren. Pollinators love it, and it stands up to drought with courage and fortitude. How could it possibly be improved upon? Sadly, it can be hard to grow in our zone (6A), and its bloom time is only about 2-4 weeks. We are here to suggest an alternative.

Before you gasp in horror and swear off of blogs forever, just imagine that someone is holding a lavender blossom under your nose. Breathe in, and out. 

Lavender. By Jen Ott

The truth is, lavender is easy to over-water when you’re trying to establish it in our heavy clay soil. Do you really want to continue holding funerals for your beloved purple friends? If not, then we invite you to consider its relative, catmint. 

In the photo below, catmint is in the forefront, and lavender is in the background. Catmint looks very similar to lavender. It has those same silvery green leaves and long, purple blossoms. It has all the same qualities as lavender that we mentioned in the first paragraph (it’s beautiful, therapeutic, loved by pollinators and drought tolerant). It also happens to be more forgiving of the soil we have in our neighborhood. But the biggest difference between catmint and lavender that simply cannot be ignored for another second is this: its flowers last from mid-spring until the first frost.

Catmint in front, lavender in the back. By Jen Ott

Catmint is well-suited for more minimalist gardens, giving you a color show that will be a dominant feature in your garden for the majority of the growing season. Her blossoms will delight your eyes and her lemon-mint scent will entice your nose. In addition to its anxiety-quelling effects, catmint has also been shown to ease stomach pain and menstrual cramps. 

Catmint! By Jen Off

Catmint also happens to repel creatures that we really wouldn’t like to include in our gardens, including aphids, cabbage loopers, Colorado potato beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs.

If you aren’t ready to let go of your lavender-growing efforts, then we applaud your perseverance and suggest amending your soil. Give lavender a fighting chance by adding more sand or pea gravel to the soil, improving drainage. Lavender is a lovely addition to more whimsical gardens, bringing a sense of creativity and imagination to the scene. In addition to its tension-relieving, sleep-improving and digestion-soothing qualities, it also helps burns and other wounds heal! Harvest lavender’s flowers and leaves while enjoying its soothing scent. Make tea out of it, spray some lavender mist on your pillow at night, and let it ground you like no other plant can. No wonder it has such a cult following. We get it, we really do.

A stream of lavender! By Jen Ott

We hope this has helped guide you to make a solid decision on which purple-hued friend will help you live your best life. If you are still uncertain, schedule a garden coaching session with Jen. You’ll enjoy a one-one-one walk-through of your garden, learning all about your garden and its potential to bring nourishment to you — AND all the other creatures in your neighborhood’s ecosystem.  

Cheers to more purple in your life. Until next thyme,

My Thyme Gardens

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