Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Variegated Shrub-Mint

leucosceptrum-japonicum-mountain-madness-640

 

Clematis you say?  What clematis?  I'm looking at the wild foliage below it.  (I'll detail the clematis soon, I promise.)  The yellow-splashed leaves are of a somewhat new-to-North-America tribe, the "shrub mints."  This one is 'Mountain Madness' and it makes you wonder what they're smoking in them thar hills.

 

From Japan, the shrub-mints are, indeed, shrubbier than the true mints, with woody stems that suggest that they'd be a true shrub if growing in Altanta or Kyoto.  But for most of us, these are die-back perennials that have traded in the rambunctiousness of the growth of their minty cousins for rambunctiousness of foliage.  And what a fabulous deal it is, to be this showy a groundcover, but one that spreads only at a gratifying pace, not in a scary race.   

 

OK, about that clematis:  I believe it's 'Edo Murasaki'.  Completely by accident, I planted this particular shrub-mint nearby, whose creamy leaves just match Edo's creamy pistils.  Sometimes things just work out for the best.

 

 

 

Here's how to grow this eye-catching perennial:

 

Latin Name

Leucosceptrum japonicum 'Mountain Madness'

Common Name

'Mountain Madness' Japanese shrub-mint

Family

Lamiaceae, the Mint family.

What kind of plant is it?

Herbaceous sub-shrubby perennial.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 8.

Habit

Upright, full-to-the-ground, and steadily-spreading.

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

A colony three feet tall and four or five feet wide.

Texture

Dense and substantial, with similar large-leaved bulk to a rhododendron, albeit with vastly more colorful foliage.

Grown for

the powerfully-variegated leaves, which have irregular splashes of white.

 

the very late-season bottlebrush flowers, more of a welcome surprise than a showy display in themselves.

 

the sheer oddity and surprise of the plant.

Flowering season

Late: Just before killing frosts in mid-October here in Rhode Island.

Culture

Easy!  Almost any reasonable soil and drainage, with some shade in the afternoon.

How to handle it

Shrub mints are tough, dependable, and exciting components of morning-sun gardens.  In milder climates stems can remain viable through the Winter, but even so, these are probably best grown like a true perennial, with all the stems cut to the ground in early Spring. 

 

Despite the "mint" name, there is no rampant colonizing, although the colony's outward march is still steady.  Best, then, as the small guy in a primarily woody neighborhood, so it can explore as a groundcover into the shady reaches of adjacent taller shrubs and ornamental trees.

 

The foliage can scorch with too much sun, another reason that these are such natural partners to taller (and therefore shade-providing) shrubs and trees, especially when growing to the East of them. 

 

If the foliage does get damaged, just cut stems back to the ground for a fresh crop.

Downsides

None.

Variants

So far, I've never met a shrub-mint I didn't want to grow.  'Golden Angel' has large pure-gold foliage.  'Silver Angel' has narrower foliage that is—so unusual in a shade-loving plant—silver, indeed.  L. stellipilum has the largest foliage of all, but it's just green, true.  L. stellipilum 'October Moon' has the same fat leaves, but edged in chartreuse.  The plant looks very much like a plectranthus that has—who knew?—suddenly become a hardy perennial. 

Availability

On-line and sometimes at "destination" retailers.

Propagation

Division, as well as cuttings.

Native habitat

Japan.

 
 
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