Plant of the Week ~ Mentha (Mint)

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Mentha aquatica botanical illustration

This week we are taking a look at another plant well known for its scent, Mentha! More commonly known as mint, with its sweet smelling leaves and delicate flowers, this herbaceous perennial is a lovely addition to any garden. The origins of its latin name Mentha comes from the Greek word minthe, which was personified in Greek mythology as Minthe, a nymph who was turned into a mint plant by Queen Persephone before she had chance to seduce Hades. I think we can all relate to how seductive the scent of mint can be. I often find myself having a nibble when tending to the allotment. It usually flowers from midsummer to mid-autumn.

Cultivation

Mentha species are happy growing in most soils so long as they do not become too dry.  A slightly acid soil is favourable and they will even grow well in heavy clay soils. Mint is happy in a sunny position and will produce more essential oils there, however it will also tolerate partial shade. They do have fairly aggressive roots so when planting, be sure you are happy with the mint spreading in the area you choose. If you do not want the mint to roam too far, you can plant it in buried pots or even just grow it in containers.

 Wildlife Gardening

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Bumblebee visiting M. aquatica

Not only is mint a tasty herb we humans can use, it is also a great plant for pollinators, attracting bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies and many other insects. In order to keep them happy, always leave some mint plants to flower so the insects can enjoy the plant as much as we do.

Edible & Herbal Uses

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Bunch of Mentha x piperita ‘Chocolate Mint’

Mentha leaves can be enjoyed raw or cooked and can make a great tea whether using fresh leaves or dried leaves. If using fresh you will need to use twice as much as you would use if using dried. Be sure to cut up the leaves in order to release the essential oils and flavours. Mint is a great caffeine-free drink for when you need a pick-me-up and it also helps with digestion so makes a good drink to enjoy after a meal.

Species

There is a lovely selection of mint species available and most readily hybridize with other mint species. Below are a few species to consider growing in your garden.

Mentha aquatica (Water Mint)

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M. aquatica

Much like other species of mint, water mint can be used in flavouring and cooking. This species is a particularly good addition to wildlife ponds and bog gardens as it enjoys damp habitats and can grow in water.

Meentha spicata (Spearmint)

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A hoverfly paying a visit to M. spicata

This is the species of mint commonly used when we refer to something being mint flavoured. It is great in cooking and its delicate pale flowers offer a pretty visual for our eyes while providing food for our pollinator friends.

Mentha suaveolens (Apple Mint)

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M. suaveolens

The flavour of the leaves of this species are considered superior to that of M. spicata, however the leaves are hairy so that needs to be taken into consideration when adding them to salads.

Now you know a little more about mint why not grow some in your garden?

Wildlife & Eco Gardens can help you create a vibrant wildlife garden for you and your family to enjoy all year round. Contact us for more information.

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