Mountain mint in native garden design

The Best Native Pollinator Perennial that is Deer Resistant

Are you looking for a Deer Resistant Pollinator Perennial?  Look no further. Short Toothed Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum muticum, is an all-star plant.  Alvin and I took a quick video on a walk by our year old native test garden.  From plugs planted one year ago we now have 2′ by 2′ shrubby pollinator magnets, with absolutely no sign of deer or rabbit browsing.  The Mountain mint has established quicker than any of the other plugs, even in our dry soil.  Its preference would be moist but well drained sites in full sun.  It is a relative of the mint family, so its deer resistance comes with a shallow rhizome spreading habit.

The dense head-like flower cymes make this plant a pollinator paradise.  Native bees, beneficial wasps, flies, beetles, skippers and small butterflies (especially hairstreaks) frequent the blossoms.  In the 2013 Penn State Extension Service Pollinator Trial “88 pollinator-rewarding herbaceous perennial plants were assessed and promoted to growers, landscapers, nursery operators, and homeowners…”  Pycnanthemum muticum was rated #1 for longevity of flowers and #1 for diversity of pollinators.  It also attracted the greatest number of insects of any plant.  During a 2 minute time period, 78 insects visited Pycnanthemum muticum including 19 bees and syrphid flies.

Laura and I are trialing dozens of native plants in various environments around Albany’s Capital District.  Our native garden designs can be incorporated into any landscape, large or small.

UPDATE 11-19:

The Mountain Mint was planted as a plug at the same time as the matrix grasses – carex, prairie dropseed, and little bluestem.  The mint’s growth rate was so fast it overwhelmed and started to smother some of the matrix.  We removed 90% of it from the bed and transplanted it to a rugged patch of ground along a woodsline where it can duke it out with the invasive bittersweet vines and hopefully get established there, away from its more fragile community members.

I think a few plugs of Pycanthemum muticum could be planted in a plant community situation 3 years after the matrix is planted and established.  It will then have only so much space to expand into until it butts up against another plant’s established root crown. This past summer Laura and I had the pleasure of attending a design workshop with Roy Diblik, a major voice in the new Perennial Garden Design movement.  He, like us, had the same situation and he told me that he resorted to total removal of the plant.

It is a superb pollinator plant and is totally deer and rabbit browse proof here in our region. Roy told me there is nothing special about what he does – he “just observes”.  As garden and landscape designers we have to take the time and observe what we plant; that plant will tell us, in time, how to use (or not use it) in our designs.

UPDATE 5-21:

We are still removing overly rambunctious Mountain mint clumps occasionally in our main native trial bed.  The next most aggressive plant we are thinning is Aster Oblongifolious, smooth aster. But that’s another post, isn’t it :).