In the garden with Tracey Bool
Cut-leaf mint bush (Prostanthera incisa) is one of the most aromatic herbs you will ever draw breath on. It has distinct elements of mint, rosemary, lavender and thyme!
This Australian native from sheltered areas of Central Tablelands and coastal areas of NSW is one of at least three edible species of mint bush; P. rotundifolia and P. ovalifolia are two others I am familiar with.
Cut-leaf mint bush is a fast-growing perennial shrub with a moderate lifespan. It grows to approximately 2m high and 1m wide. It is a showstopper during spring when it becomes absolutely covered in vibrant purple flowers. Beneficial insects come from afar to help celebrate the event. The pleasant aromatic foliage makes cut-leaf mint bush useful as a companion plant.
This lovely shrub grows in partly shaded positions and requires reliable watering in hot dry weather. It is cold tolerant to -5oC. Soils need to be slightly acid and have at least reasonable drainage, as they are prone to root rot. Cut-leaf mint bush also grows well in a pot. Give it an annual prune after flowering, as well as a harder prune on occasions for rejuvenation purposes.
The foliage, flowers and stem of cut-leaf mint bush are all edible and can be used fresh or dried. Avoid storing it for extended periods, however, as herbs lose their potency over time.
Cut-leaf mint bush is an intensely flavoured herb so use it sparingly. It is particularly complementary to meat and tomato dishes, as well as being popular as a tea. Celebrity Indigenous chef Mark Olive says to let herbs ‘swell’ from the moisture in cooking to achieve maximum flavour. Traditionally, cut-leaf mint bush has a strong history as a medicinal plant.
Cut-leaf mint bush is easily propagated by semi-hardwood cuttings. Collect flower-free bendy but not-snappy material first thing in the morning. Cut it into 5cm lengths, just below a leaf node. The base of the cutting can be cut on an angle or gently scratched, to expose the cambium layer and assist with the formation of roots. Gently remove two-thirds of the lower foliage.
Dipping the cuttings in a hormone gel or raw honey may assist with root formation. Using a dibbler stick, insert two leaf nodes of the cutting below the surface of the planting media. It’s important to use a good quality propagation mix with excellent aeration.
House your cuttings in a humid environment and maintain moisture. Aim for a 20oC soil temperature and a 25oC air temperature. To check for readiness after at least three weeks, pull gently on the cutting (aka the ‘tug test’); if it holds firm it has formed roots and is ready to pot.
Open garden: Braddon Bounty
For those keen to see the pretty and productive potential of a suburban block, plan a visit to 67 Elimatta Street, Braddon on the weekend of 14-15 March.
According to the garden notes, ‘Braddon Bounty’ is a predominantly no dig garden, with the naturalistic look tempered by formal elements such as espaliered fruit trees, clipped evergreen forms with interest added through artworks and objects.
Open to the public for the first time, as part of Open Gardens Canberra autumn program, the garden is 845sqm and encircles the 1924 house with pathways made of ‘Canberra reds’ and rocks salvaged from the original garden as well as pavers.
Additional features include a chicken run, beehive, raised vegetable gardens, water tanks and over 40 fruiting trees.
The garden is open 14-15 March 10am-4pm daily. Entry: $8 non-members, free members. More info: opengardenscanberra.org.au