Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lovely Lady's Mantle

Alchemilla mollis
Native to Turkey and the Carpathians, Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is one of my all time favorite plants, with its blue-green leaves that cause water drops to bead and fluffy chartreuse flowers. I always look forward to seeing it bloom, usually in early May. Here it is along the small brick walkway that leads to our kitchen deck. I'll cut it back when it gets scraggly and have another, smaller show of flowers in a couple of months. Lady's Mantle likes partial shade but can do well in brighter light, given adequate moisture. This time of year I find many (but not too many) seedlings that I transplant with great success.

The common name "Lady's Mantle" has many stories associated with it. One says that it comes from the shape of the leaves which are said to resemble the Virgin Mary's cloak, another that it was used to adorn her... The botanical name "Alchemilla" is the Latinised version of the plant's Arabic name, "Alkemelych". The anti-wetting property of the leaves that causes water to bead, created what the ancients called "celestial water" that was said to be used in alchemy. The "mollis" part of the name refers to the leaves being soft or covered with hair. I would call the texture pleasingly soft and fuzzy. Apparently Lady's Mantle has been used for everything from stomach remedies to dyeing wool. In any event, the common and botannical names and the plant's history are intriguing and add to my enjoyment of this lovely, no-fuss perennial.

I found an excellent discussion of Alchemilla mollis and beautiful pictures on this WordPress post:

A Fashion Plate in Chartreuse and Sea Green

Because it self-sows generously, but not so much as to be a pest, I use it throughout our garden. Here it is lining the little brick walk to the deck off our kitchen, with some astible behind it. If I cut it back after blooming when it begins to look a little ratty, it will put on a second show later in the year.

Not only do I love alchemilla in the landscape, I often use in flower arrangements, where it will last about five days.

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