23 Acres of Pineapple Mint

Last year Cate brought me a small pineapple mint plant as a hostess gift, and I planted it right in the garden. And all was well with the world-- it did nicely, and didn't spread.

But this year it spread. You can see from the photo above that it spread to any spot it could reach that was not covered with carpet or landscape fabric. I didn't realize it spread via its root system, I always thought mint just prolifically reseeded. When the kids are older I may take the master gardener classes so I can learn this stuff in a systematic way rather than by cruel experience.

But since life gave me mint, I figured I'd make the proverbial mint lemonade. We've got some bare patches of dirt on the shrub hill that I don't like to see every time I go down the driveway. And I figured the mint would probably do fine there, and there is plenty of room to spread. So while T was out this afternoon, I took a bucket of mint I dug up from the garden pictured above (about 1/3 of the mint shown there filled the bucket), a hand trowel, and W, and waddled on down the driveway to the bare spots.

I planted each section of mint about 12" from any other, and without much ceremony. The dirt was easy to dig since there were no roots to go through, it was just bare dirt, and I didn't dig deep. Just enough to plop the mint down with leaves facing up, roots facing down, and patted the earth back atop the roots.

I envisioned how lovely it would look, a nice bushy variegated-leaved plant lining the drive instead of patches of dirt, and felt rather pleased with myself. Unfortunately that feeling didn't last long, since my next thought was the horror of what the farm would look like with pineapple mint covering not only that hillside, but coming up through the gravel of the driveway, choking out the shrubs and trees, and taking over all the pasture.

I thought about Jurassic Park and hubris of resurrecting the dinosaurs and what havoc that wrought there, and wondered if my seemingly harmless solution of using pineapple mint as a groundcover for a troublesome hillside would result in massive unintended consequences.

But I didn't worry about it for too long. Crabgrass and briers are also invasive, and while the briers are indeed pernicious, we have been able to tame them when necessary. I don't imagine the mint will be worse to deal with than those two weeds, and it's far more safe and attractive (not only are there no thorns and it's not poisonous, it's even edible!).

I think I might have another patch of regular-flavored mint at the far corner of the garden, if I didn't eradicate it last year. If so, I will plant that in another spot on the shrub hill. You need something like 40 mint leaves to make the syrup for one traditional julep, so you actually need quite a bit of mint if you want to keep the syrup on hand to mix drinks for guests. So if I can't find the mint in my existing garden, I may go so far as to buy a new mint plant to plant on the hillside. I figure if I let it go to a 12' x 12' patch I'll have an indefinite supply of julep syrup. I might have to look into whether that's something I could sell at the farmer's market. They've got very particular rules about prepared foods. I could do mint jelly, at any rate, that I'm sure of.