Armidale gardening: Mint bush majesty

Mauve wonder: Prostanthera nivea var induta is one of the few mint bushes with little or no foliage aroma. Flowers appear in spring and summer.
Mauve wonder: Prostanthera nivea var induta is one of the few mint bushes with little or no foliage aroma. Flowers appear in spring and summer.

The prostantheras (mint bushes) are close relatives of the culinary mint and most varieties have strongly aromatic foliage. They are popular garden subjects.

There are about 60 species and are only found in Australia. NSW is home to about 47 mint bushes and of these at least 12 call New England home. It is possible there are some as yet unnamed species hiding in the area’s extensive and varied bushland.

Prostantheras have proven to be hardy and free flowering. During very dry times, some varieties may wilt. A drink of water or a shower of rain will revive them. As with most plants, the mint bushes benefit from pruning after flowering. This keeps plants from becoming straggly.

All the mint bushes described are surviving and thriving in many local gardens. Almost without exception the mint bushes propagate readily from cuttings.

Prostanthera cuneata, the alpine mintbush, as the name implies, is found in the alpine areas of NSW and Victoria. It is one of the dominant understorey shrubs. Strangely, it is presumed extinct in Tasmania.

The alpine mintbush is a compact, dwarf shrub with small, highly aromatic leaves. The flowers are about two centimetres across, white with reddish blotches in the throat. Flowering extends from November to April when plants produce copious blooms.

Prostanthera cuneata would be ideal as a foreground plant in native gardens, rockeries and cottage gardens.

Prostanthera rotundifolia, round-leaved mint bush, is a compact shrub that reaches a height of one and a half metres in our garden. The leaves are almost circular, very aromatic and dull green. The flowers are over one centimetre wide and mauve to purple. Spring is when plants become covered in blooms. Both the foliage and flowers are attractive features.

The round-leaved mint bush has a wide distribution and is found in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

Prostanthera nivea var induta is a shrub that reaches a height of two metres. Leaves are one centimetre long, grey-green and held in small clusters. This is one of the few mint bushes with little or no foliage aroma. Large flowers are mauve, one centimetre across and appear throughout spring and summer. This species has some of the largest blooms and is one mint bush that resists wilting during dry period.

Prostanthera nivea variety induta has a limited distribution and is found in the Warrumbungle National Park and the adjacent Pilliga Forest.

This mint bush will bring eye-catching colour to your garden for many months.

Prostanthera lasianthos is known as the Victorian Christmas bush. This mint bush will develop into a tall spreading shrub. The leaves have a leathery feel and are very aromatic. White flowers are carried in sprays and appear in the summer months. As with most species, this mint bush flowers profusely.

This mint bush is widespread and is found in all the eastern states including Tasmania. New England National Park and Oxley Wild Rivers National Park have populations of this species.

Prostanthera lasianthos is a variable shrub and is being split into a number of new species.

Mint bushes will bring spring and summer colour to your garden.