6. Water Mint (Mentha aquatica)
This species is really the twin of my last selection (Ragged Robin). As with that species, it came to my notice by being one of the plants that populated the wet flushes on the shingle at Dungeness. I often smelt it before seeing it, at times in subtle wafts, and at others it could be overpowering, depending on whether or not I had just crushed some leaves underfoot. The flower cannot be described as anything but modest, but is recognisable from a distance, as each neat 'ball' tops another, discretely strewn amidst the vegetation.
You can find it where there is water, whether a damp flush, a village pond or a stream-side bank. I have it growing in my small garden pond, where it is a great attractant to a wide range of bees, flies, wasps and moths. Just sit for an hour and watch the winged procession come and visit. It is easy to plant and will spread across the pond by creeping rhizomes. I look for the spikes each summer and am delighted when I am sure that it will be flowering again - there are a minimum of 15 at the moment.
It reaches so high in my Top 12 by association - the minty whiff transports me back to carefree summers on the shingle, drowsy afternoons when the birding had gone quiet but there was pleasure to be found by meandering through the sallow bushes, dragonflies and damselflies taking flight, insects busy and the warm air perfumed by Mentha aquatica...