Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Corsican Mint!

In the WeedsI became obsessed with Corsican mint a few years ago, after seeing a photograph of a courtyard garden, which-if memory serves-featured little more than ten or twelve large white stepping stones magically hovering above a translucent carpet of the Mentha requienii. While I had no desire to impose this kind of 'modern' aesthetic onto my own garden-which was already packed full of similar obsessions-I began to research. The plant, I quickly learned, has a preference for a 'climate zone' of 6 through 9-fairly warm– and though Washington Heights is technically a zone 6A, I find that plants do best if I treat the neighborhood as a zone 5. What did I care? I immediately bought some. Via the internet!

Mint!Predictably, when the plants arrived from Oregon-mecca of nurseries-I was disappointed that the reality did not meet my exalted expectations. It was difficult to reconcile the infinite lime-green terrain of my dreams with the small soggy clumps wrapped in plastic and rubber bands, many with limp, yellowing leaves quite obviously homesick for the motherland from which they had been so cruelly ripped. More promising was the smell; I'm generally not a fan of minty-tasting things, but this was sweeter and not-at-all artificial. It made me want to brush my teeth!

A Flower!

I put it here and there around the garden, and was pleasantly surprised when some of it began to crawl around and over the nearby rocks. Although it suffered a bit in the August heat and died off completely in the snow, it triumphantly reemerged in the spring, and has since maintained a stronghold in the pictured crevice. This year it even has microscopic purple flowers, each one about the size of a pin. They glitter like tiny little stars. (Though I can't help but agree with 'TheDamnMushroom' on Flickr, who wrote: "That's the main thing I hate about my camera-it can't macro for shit. [But the] little purple blooms are there.")


One of the great things about Corsican mint is that it can effectively replicate the highly coveted (at least by me!) 'rock-garden' aesthetic without the heartbreak and melancholy invariably associated with the more temperamental (if admittedly gorgeous) succulents, conifers and mosses, none of which-to give an obvious example-were too pleased by last month's El-Nino induced monsoons (if turning to brown mush is an indication).


Although I haven't tried this myself, I'm sure you could grow Corsican mint quite nicely in a pot; perhaps throw in a rock or two and watch the tendrils slowly 'cascade' over the edges as the season progresses. Like me, you could come home after another sad day in the city and console yourself as you gently caress the leaves of this aromatic marvel and dream of soft Mediterranean breezes belonging to a time and place so much better than our own.

Matthew Gallaway is a writer who lives in Washington Heights. His first novel, The Metropolis Case, will be published in 2010 by Crown.

24 Comments / Post A Comment

WindowSeat (#180)

Oh hell, Gardening too? I'll never get any work done!

Abe Sauer (#148)

damn. I would love to be able to have this. Too bad I'm in, like, a zone 2. The upside, all the beets and potatoes you could ever want. Nothing that starts with "Corsican" in it will ever be found here… including people.

propertius (#361)

You can grow ladyslippers. Most of them love zone 2.


Abe Sauer (#148)

Yes. I can grow snap dragons. And tons of lilacs.

propertius (#361)

Lucky you! They are so beautiful.

LostInSF (#563)

so I know I'm supposed to write something funny here, but I can never think of anything clever enough. hit me up after I've had a drink or two. I do, however, need to gush: I love The Awl. This new feature? so cool. so well written.

spanish bombs (#562)

This was way better than the "urbane urban" led me to expect!

KarenUhOh (#19)

Warning to those with sizeable planting areas who want to use this stuff: it will take over, and go where it's not supposed ta.

Cats dig it, though. So do bunnies. Literally.

alexgdewitt (#1,109)

I'm ordering some online as I type…and apparently it also makes a refreshing tea! Who knew? A secret garden in Washington Heights…can't wait for more.

jolie (#16)

I give this one a black thumb up, but would kindly request (on behalf of all of us with black thumbs) that you get a leetle bit more servicey on the next go. Like, ummmm… what's this zone you speak of? Might my lack of zoning knowledge explain why I kill everything ever (including the spirits of the men I date)?

KarenUhOh (#19)

Garden plants, trees and shrubs on offer all should have "zoned" information telling you, the Planting Jolie, whether the plant is apt to work in your climatic zone. I forget how it works, but I think you and I are both a four or a five. There are maps online that'll tell you.

But, a lot of the time, plants will thrive and die regardless of such hoo-ha printed on their tags. Plant away, the little hothouse flowers of your dreams.

BadUncle (#153)

Here are the larger USDA zone maps:


You can google your subzone (like "USDA Zone + 11231") and find out that your section of chattanooga shares the same microclimate as Chattanooga. And that means you can't plant tangerines unless you have an orangerie.

Flashman (#418)

It's just getting harder and harder to justify not having an orangerie.

josh_speed (#97)

This is far too cool that The Awl has a gardening feature now; so genteel! (And this goes well with Choire's outside photo-essays…)

For those of you who think you live in a zone too cool for this plant: if you live in a city, add one zone to your starting one. If you live in a sheltered, concrete dwelling, add another zone. I'm in Montreal (zone 5?) and can grow herbs on the patio that are only supposed to work in zone 7.

WindowSeat (#180)

There's little harm in trying out a plant in an inappropriate zone unless you're spending tons of money. I reserve part of my garden for experiments and have been pleasantly surprised. One I'm regretting is Diplotaxis erucoides commonly called Wild Arugula. It's a native of Malta and it's gotten loose from my Zone 5 garden and is popping up all over the place.

oudemia (#177)

Yes, well now you can sell it at the Union Sq. farmer's market for $7 a quarter pound. Seriously.

lovely! i'm rlly happy that it's not in the hipster runoff voice, too, you're so much better like this.

slinkimalinki (#182)

damn. i was going to plant corsican mint but it seemed too damned expensive for one little punnet. if i'd known it was going to going prancing all over the garden i might have.

jaimealyse (#647)

That is damn fine use of "prance."

CrappyEditor (#377)

I hope this is sarcastic.

Hez (#147)

I enjoyed this, but – just my n00bthumb opinion here – I'd love it if the more prosaic variety of the plant was included in the discussion as well. Contextualizing would throw us beginners a nice bone, especially since my "experiments" are still more along the lines of "can I even remember to water the fucker before it dries up and dies?"

propertius (#361)

Good also to discuss houseplants – since many of us (I'm sure) live in apartments and don't have a garden.

jaimealyse (#647)

Oh man, garden envy. Window-sills-that-get-sunlight envy. Mint envy. And just one neighborhood south of me to boot.

worst_1_yet (#681)

Wuz hoping this was about weed.

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