Often overlooked by gardeners in search of something exciting, the unpretentious Lady's Mantle is extremely useful for both its foliage and its flowers. With lovely pleated leaves that are soft grey-green with scalloped margins, the foliage has the additional virtue of looking especially beautiful after a rain, when it holds water droplets in the pleats of its surface like many pearls of liquid mercury.
The blossoms of Alchemilla mollis are just as extraordinary as the foliage; they consist of airy clouds of tiny, delicate flowers of a priceless chartreuse colour. This most valuable cooling green-yellow is a superb companion to almost all colours, especially violets, blues, whites and best of all, pinks. They also soften the harsher oranges and yellows. Lady’s mantle combine well with hardy geraniums (Geranium), bellflowers (Campanula) and sages (Salvia), as well as foliage plants like coral bells (Heuchera) and ferns.
Hardy to -15°C (5°F), the frost-resistant leaves grace the garden for most of the year, except for the very depths of winter. The blossoms of Lady's Mantle make outstanding cut flowers, both fresh and dried.
Although there\'s nothing new about this venerable plant, it remains one of the most outstanding perennials, No garden should be without this beautiful, useful and charming plant.
• In 1993 it was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (RHS AGM).
Sow in Spring, March to May. Sow in spring 3mm (1/8in) deep in trays or pots containing good free draining seed compost, Make sure that the compost is moist but not wet. Place in a propagator or seal in a polythene bag and place in a warm place until after germination which usually takes 21 to 30 days at 16 to 20°C (60 to 70°F).
Transplant when large enough to handle into 7.5cm (3in) pots or boxes and grow on in cool. Acclimatise young plants to outdoor conditions before planting out into ordinary garden soil in full sun 38cm (15in) apart.
Cut back the faded flower heads and foliage in August and the plant will often produce a second flush of flowers.
Once established, Lady's mantle is drought tolerant. If allowed to self-seed into gravel or cracks between paving, the resulting seedlings are very drought tolerant. Divide plants in March to April.
Once flowers and foliage become untidy in late summer, cut back to encourage new foliage. Unless you want the plant to seed itself freely, cut back the flowering stems before they seed.
Banks and Slopes, Cottage/Informal, Flower Arranging, Beds and borders, Gravel, Underplanting.
Lady’s Mantle can be used fresh or dried in vase arrangements, and make a make a great bouquet filler. Drying them is as simple as cutting the blooming stems and hanging them in bundles upside down in a cool, ventilated spot to dry. They resist shattering and last longer than many dried flowers.
Alchemilla is an old medicinal herb that is now more of value for ornamental foliage and flowers.
An old authority states that if placed under the pillow at night, the herb will promote quiet sleep.
Lady’s Mantle has astringent and styptic properties on account of the tannin that it contains, it is 'of a very drying and binding character' as the old herbalists expressed it. The whole herb is used; it is gathered in June and July when in flower and when the leaves are at their best, and dried. The root is employed, generally fresh.
Culpepper says of it...
"Lady's Mantle is very proper for inflamed wounds and to stay bleeding, vomitings, fluxes of all sorts, bruises by falls and ruptures. It is one of the most singular wound herbs and therefore highly prized and praised, used in all wounds inward and outwards and to drink a decoction thereof and wash the wounds therewith or dip tents therein and put them into the wounds which wonderfully drieth up all humidity of the sores and abateth all inflammations thereof. It quickly healeth green wounds, not suffering any corruption to remain behind and cureth old sores, though fistulous and hollow."
Alchemilla is native to northern Greece east into western Russia and into the Caucasus, south to northern Iran. In its natural habitat it grows in wide range of habitats from stream banks to meadows and wind swept plains and mountainous areas. It is quite a common garden escape that appears in hedgerows and on unkempt grassland.
More than 200 micro-species of Alchemilla are known to exist in Europe. These perennial wildflowers, members of the rose family, the Rosaceae, are sometimes grown in gardens.
Subtle differences among many of the species and cultivars make them basically indistinguishable from each other. General comments on foliage, plant habits, floral traits and bloom periods are applicable to most of the lady’s mantles, with very few exceptions
The RHS considers Alchemilla vulgaris an aggregate name for a number of the species. Alchemilla mollis is one of the rather larger species but otherwise very similar. The flowers of A. vulgaris are smaller than A. mollis and tinged greenish rather than the yellowish of A. mollis.
The generic name Alchemilla is derived from the Arabic word Alkemelych (alchemy), due both to its reputation for having healing properties and because its leaves catch the morning dew. These beads of water were considered by alchemists to be the purest form of water. They utilised this water in their quest to turn base metal into gold. In the Middle Ages, the water collected from leaves was believed to have magical properties.
The species name "mollis" means “soft”
There are a quite number of synonyms including, Alchemilla sylvestris, Alchemilla vulgaris subsp. pratensis, Alchemilla vulgaris var. pratensis, Alchemilla vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, Alchemilla xanthochlora, Alchemilla vulgaris subsp. xanthochlora.
The common name, Lady's Mantle (in its German form, ‘Frauenmantle’), was first bestowed on it by the sixteenth-century botanist, Jerome Bock, always known by the Latinised version of his name: Tragus. It appears under this name in his famous History of Plants, published in 1532, and Linnaeus adopted it.
In the Middle Ages, this plant had been associated with the Virgin Mary (hence it is Lady's Mantle, not Ladies' Mantle), the lobes of the leaves being supposed to resemble the scalloped edges of a mantle or cloak.
In Medieval Latin we also find it called Leontopodium (lion's foot), probably from its spreading root-leaves, and this has become in modern French ‘Pied-de-lion’. We occasionally find the same idea expressed in two English local names,'Lion's foot' and 'Bear's foot.' It has also been called 'Stellaria,' from the radiating character of its lower leaves.
The margins of the leaves are cut into seven or mostly nine broad, but shallow lobes which are finely toothed at the edges, from which it has obtained one of its of the local names of 'Nine Hooks.'
The 'dewdrops' on Lady's Mantle aren't real dewdrops (at least most of them aren't). They are the result of a process called 'guttation' (the formation of droplets, guttae in Latin). When the water-saturation of the atmosphere is high (near 100%), the plant isn't able to loose more water by evaporation. It turns then to the process of droplet-formation through open 'hydatodes' (water-mouths) at the edges of the leaves.
This process takes place in most plants, but normally the drops fall on the ground. The special form of the lady's mantle leaves prevent them from falling, and they gather on the surface of the leaves.
Horses and sheep like the plant, and it has therefore been suggested as a profitable fodder plant, but the idea has proved unpractical. Grazing animals will not eat the leaves till the moisture in them has dissipated.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 250 Seeds Family Rosaceae Genus Alchemilla Species mollis Synonym The genus is spelt with either one or two L's - Alchemila or Alchemilla
both spellings are correct.
Common Name 'Thriller', 'Irish Silk', Lady’s Mantle Other Common Names Alchemila vulgaris Other Language Names Ger. Frauenmantel Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to -15°C (5°F) Flowers Chartreuse, green-yellow Natural Flower Time June to September Height Foliage: 30-45cm (12-18in) Flowers: 45-60cm (18-24in) Spread 75cm (30in) Spacing Plant 38cm (15in) apart Position Exposed or sheltered Aspect Full sun to partial shade, Soil Average steady moisture, will tolerate most soil types Time to Sow Sow in Spring, March to May Germination 21-30 days at 16-20°C (60-70°F).