Friday, June 4, 2010

Lady's Mantle

Botanical Name:  Alchemilla mollis   
al-kem-ILL-ah MAWL-iss   
Common Name: Lady's mantle 

The first time I became aware of Lady’s Mantle was on a trip to England where I noticed it in several gardens and was promptly charmed by this delicate and versatile plant.

 Merriments Gardens, East Sussex, England

Lady's Mantles are attractive perennials usually grown for both their round, pleated foliage and their unusual chartreuse flowers. The plants grow between 8 and 14 inches high, with lobed leaves of silvery gray-green that bear silky hairs. The flowers appear in early summer, standing well above the leaves, and last for several weeks. One of my favorite characteristics of this plant is the way it catches the morning dew or rain on it’s leaves. It can be paired with just about any color and look outstanding.

 Water beads up on the leaves, giving the appearance of jewels
when it catches the light.

Lady's Mantles are easy to grow in average garden soil where summers are cool and moist, preferring some protection from hot sun in midsummer. In warmer parts of the country, they need a moist, fertile soil and light shade. I have several both in shade and in full sun and they all do well. This is a plant that looks best at the front of a border or draping itself over a wall. They are also great in a container planting. The flowers are a perfect filler plant in cut flower bouquets.

The plant is called Alchemilla vulgaris, in botanical circles and is actually an herb. The botanical name, Alchemilla, suggests the plant is a direct reference to the alchemists, early chemist and magicians believed that dewdrops which gathered on the leaves of the lady’s mantle had some magical powers.
 Heasleigh, a B&B on the outskirts of London, England
The plant does, however have several medicinal uses. It’s common name - Lady's Mantle was given due to the plants very shapely and pleated leaves that look like a lady's cloak in medieval times. The original common name of the herb was - Our-Lady's-mantle in honor of the Virgin Mary.

 Idiridge, a private garden in East Sussex, England

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