A few weeks ago I was talking about my desire to have more mint in the garden, a plan which is still a work in progress. It’s hard keeping mints in small pots happy in a hot, sunny garden. Ultimately I’d like to plant them into bottomless pots, sunk into the soil along the fence, but work on that area of the garden has stalled whilst we take care of other things.
The mints I have (and the lemon balm plants) are all putting on new growth after their summer hair cuts, and looking lovely. A recent blog post about growing your own green thai curry reminded me that I wanted to add lime balm into the mix, but this particular variety of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ‘Lime’) isn’t widely available. The author of that blog, Nic Wilson, told me that she picked up her plant from a stall at the Hampton Court Flower Show, and events like that are often good places to find unusual species and varieties for the garden.
A quick Google (including a look at the RHS Plant Finder) showed me that there aren’t too many online suppliers for lime balm in the UK. The most obvious is Hooksgreenherbs, from where you can buy a 1 litre plant for £5. Which sounds reasonable until you get to the postage charges – £6.50. It’s not cost effective to buy one plant from them (and one plant, and a packet of seeds, was all I wanted from their catalogue at the moment).
A slightly more extensive search brought me to Battlesbridge Mills at Newlands Nursery, which has quite a large range of herb plants, as well as chillies. They sell much smaller plants – the options being an ‘established starter plant’ (£1.05) or a 9cm potted plant (£1.55). Orders over £10 offer free delivery.
I can’t be the only person more willing to pay for plants than postage 😉 So I thought I would try this new supplier, and put together an order for the lime balm and various different sorts of mint. Ten baby plants arrived a few days later, in flat-pack plastic ‘wallets’ and I potted them up that evening. Since then they’ve spent most of their time on a tray on the dining room table, out of the scorching sun. They go outside occasionally, to have their photo taken, or when we need to use the dining table!
In this row we have the 3 new lime balm plants.
“The plant makes a lovely pot plant as well as going in the garden. Whilst the Lime Balm will spread itself via seed rather than runners, you can always weed out any seedlings that grow. Lime Balm while less well known that Lemon balm still makes a lovely lime flavoured tea. Simply steep the leaves in boiling water for a refreshing lime drink.”
It’s interesting they note that it will spread by seed, like lemon balm does. I had thought that might not be true, as it doesn’t seem possible to buy the seed. Perhaps the resulting seedlings will revert to a lemon flavour? Time will tell! As it says, weeding out surplus seedlings is no bother.
Spanish mint, described as “a hardy perennial with an erect habit. Height 45-60cm”, is a spearmint variety – Mentha spicata ’Spanish’. Apparently it has a nice, strong spearmint flavour ideal for mojitos and Middle Eastern cooking; once it grows a bit I’ll be able to compare its flavour to the other spearmints in the garden.
Water spearmint was new to me. According to the website, Mentha cervina is
“also known as Hart’s Pennyroyal. Cervina is a spreading herbaceous perennial with slender, lance-shaped, aromatic, mid-green leaves and whorls of blue or lilac flowers from midsummer into autumn. Mentha cervina can be grown in the garden throughout the whole year.. To develop better these plants need regular watering , keeping the soil moist; they survive even in very humid locations, near small lakes and ponds.”
PFAF tells me its leaves have a strong spearmint fragrance and can be used to make tea. It looks very different to the other mints in leaf form. The plan has always been to have a very damp bed in the garden – we have the trough for it, but that’s as far as we’ve got – and the water spearmint can live there. I just need to keep it well-watered until then!
Tashkent Mint, Mentha spicata ‘Tashkent’, is a “hardy perennial with attractive slightly curled leaves. Height 45cm”. Jekka McVicar says it is not particularly different from Moroccan mint. Mark Diacono believes it’s the best sort of mint to pair with potatoes. I will find out who is right in due course 😉
Mojito mint, Mentha x villosa isn’t trying to persuade people it’s good with potatoes. It’s not a general purpose mint, it’s a specialist.
“It’s simple really, Mojito Mint (Mentha ×villosa) is native to Cuba and can be found growing all over the island. So when it came to making a drink that called for Mint this was the authentic choice.”
The flavour of mojito Mint is like no other, it has a warm, deeper scent than many other Mints and doesn’t have the same sweetness of Spearmint.
The plant itself has a lovely compact habit making it a great choice for a pot next to the patio or in a window box. As with all Mints make sure you contain this Mint as left to it’s own devices it may spread more than you’d want. The leaves have a very pleasing curl to them with a slight silvery tinge.”
Judging by the photo on the website, it also has very crinkly leaves – it could be called Crepe Mint without any exaggeration. It may become the Pimms mint of choice, although it will have to fight the Moroccan mint for that honour.
I already have one Moroccan mint in the garden, and it was the minty star of last year’s garden, the go-to herb for Pimms and for minty potato salad. It hasn’t been as prolific this year, and needs a bit more TLC (mostly in the form of water!) than it has been getting, but it’s alive and kicking, and now it has a couple of friends.
The website says:
“This Mint is perhaps most famous for its use in tea. All over Morocco you can order a Mint tea where they’ll stuff a load of the leaves in a cup and just cover with boiling hot water. Simple but delicious and adding a bit of honey is nice too.”
But that’s not strictly true – Moroccan mint tea is green tea, flavoured with mint, served very sweet. Whether you want that version, or the entirely herbal one, is a matter of personal choice.
“As this is the time of year for tomatoes, try chopping up some Moroccan Mint and sprinkling it over some freshly chopped tomatoes with a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil.”
So… some new little herb plants from a new supplier. They will take a little more TLC than larger plants, nurturing them until they can cope with life outdoors and my lacklustre watering regime. Hopefully by that time their spot in the garden will be dug over and planted up and they will be able to live the life of Riley in a shady spot under the kiwi, which is also in desperate need of a permanent spot.