A couple of months ago I signed up for a six-week class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (a.k.a. BBG). Identifying herbaceous perennials it's called. Now, many if not most people take this class because they are working toward a certificate in horticulture. I had considered working toward the certificate but when I found out that we would be tested each week on the Latin names of each plant we had learned the week before, my thoughts of working toward a certificate in horticulture went out the window. I couldn't even pronounce the Latin names much less remember them and then spell them correctly. Plus, I spent far to many years in school and have zero interest in learning something that doesn't really interest me (like Latin names). So I told my instructor I was just doing the class for fun and gave up any hopes of learning the Latin names.
The first class was a little rocky. I wasn't dressed all that comfortably for standing outside for hours (I don't do casual well) and I was put off by my instructor only caring that we know the Latin names (wouldn't it be more useful if we knew where to plant them, how to take care of them, etc.?). I thought about dropping out of the class but I learned it was too late to get any kind of refund so I soldiered on. And I am glad I did.
The second class was spent identifying plants in the rose garden, which was wonderful. While all the other students were carefully photographing and studying all the plants they would need to know for the exam the following week, I was taking photos of the roses.
It was the second week in June and the roses were at their peak.
In 2009, rose rosette disease ("RRD") (a virus that is typically spread by mites) devastated the BBG's rose garden and as a result, it underwent a major renovation, restoration, and remediation. This time around, the BBG decided to incorporate companion plants in the garden in order to reduce pests and protect the roses from RRD and other diseases.
The rose garden had many companion plants, including clematis, sweet alyssum, German chamomile, red campion, and dame's rocket (the last one being illegal in Connecticut and prohibited in Massachusetts because it is an exotic invasive). But my favorite is catmint (or Nepeta x faassenii for those who like Latin).
The catmint is the plant with the purple flowers in the photo above. It is one of the best plants to use to edge or underplant a rose bed. Catmint likes sun and dry conditions and does not like especially fertile soil, making it very easy to grow. Plus all the bees love it.