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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Unsung Hero of the Perennial Garden

If you had to choose just one perennial as the unsung hero of the perennial garden, which one would you choose?

There are so many different perennials in my garden, most of them are ones that I just could never do without but there's one that's special to me. Alchemilla mollis, also known as Ladies Mantle is a perennial that I just must have in my garden. And have it I do, I have it in every flower bed on this property. It might be the only perennial that could lay claim to that fact.

Yet as much Alchemilla as I have, it's just not enough. Last night I was browsing through the many wonderful blogs on Blotanical. I love to sneak a peek at the European blogs too, my knowledge of German is less than perfect but I can make my way through most German posts.

Garten Impressionen is one German blog that caught my eye when I first started blogging at Blotanical. Since there is also an English translation right there, more of you should drop by and take a look. Anyway, last night I saw some photos at Garten Impressionen that reminded me why I love Alchemilla so much.

It seems like the only place I've seen Alchemilla growing in large waves is at botanical gardens. It looks so stunning planted that way that I don't understand why I haven't done the same thing here at my old country gardens. Could it be that I'm too stingy a gardener? Not willing to give up that much space to one single plant species?

What ever the reason is, I do so love my Alchemilla mollis plants. They just make every plant combination look amazing. I'm always telling people that adding Alchemilla to the garden is like installing expensive crown molding in your dining room. Sheer class and beauty.

One of the most interesting things to me is that I can hardly sell this plant at our spring plant sale. It just doesn't look so exciting in a pot. When people ask what what color the flowers are and I answer "chartreuse" they just look at me and pass it by.

So, what would you choose as the unsung hero of perennial gardens?


2greenthumbsup said...

Lady's Mantle is one of my absolute favorites as well. I love the delicate chartreuse blooms and the way the leaves catch and hold droplets of water is beautiful. I'm determined to take a good up close and personal photograph of the water droplets this summer. (At the rate we're going now it might be August by the time that opportunity arises - too much snow!)

Anonymous said...

Great question! Mine would be Heuchera. I have and will have--one of every kind. I love the new heucherella too. I've never tried Lady's Mantle--but will now.

Marie said...

Interesting post, beautiful photos!

GardenJoy4Me said...

Hi melanie
I am a fan of this understated beauty as well .. I also have the Alchemilla erythropoda
I hope it is alright to put a link there for it.
It is smaller, yet very much like the standard and this requires less space but provides all the wonderful qualities of the regular Lady's Mantle.
So no excuses for lack of room .. everyone can have these little troopers in their garden !
Joy : )

KrisK913 said...


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Frances, said...

Melanie, first off, I checked out your honeysuckle bedecked swing, how charming! I need to read all your posts, they are to my taste. I have grown the alchemilla in my other garden in NE TN, but have had trouble here, it's that slope, I think, may have to try it again. An unsung plant, hmmm, so many, I'm not good at choosing favorites, as the mother of four, it isn't a good idea!

Frances at Faire Garden

lintys said...

I love lady's mantle too. It's on the list to add to my shady garden this year. I've missed them! I've had lady's mantle in my gardens for 20 years, brought divisions when I moved here 4 years ago. They quickly became victims of our yard monkeys, disappearing within days. This time I'll get them in gallon pots. Anything smaller than that gets dug up and carried away.

Wurzerl said...

Hi Melanie,
you are so kind. It was a big surprise for me to read about my blog in your post in such a nice way. Thank you for visiting my blog and commenting on in. And,... I' m sorry, I try to have a better English very soon, but in the moment it' s so bad.
Lady' s Mantle is a hero! In my garden I cultivate it near the pond and the little brook. The little Alchemilla alpina is growing in my rock garden. I love them both.
Ok, one plant!!! What plant??? What a interesting question (like one book at an island). My head says: columbine and my heart daisy.
The brown Foxglove is Digitalis ferrugiana. It' s a wonderful plant and together with blue Geranium the best combination with Alchemilla in my personal taste.
Is it ok, if I do your interesting blog in the list of my favourite Links?
Have a great day Wurzerl

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I think that the reason it's so hard to plant drifts of lady's mantle is that it's soooo good at combining with other plants, as your pictures show! :)

Not quite sure what the unsung hero would be in my gardens. (I do lots of singing when I like a plant!) But I'll have to think about that and come up with one.

Gail said...


No luck with Lady's Mantle but I am very successful with Heuchera and phlox. I am especially crazy about Phlox pilosa. It blooms for a month and smells wonderful. It self seeds and you can move it about. A pretty pink if you like pink...I do.


Birgit said...

Hello Melanie, first, thank you for stopping my blog and for the nice words you have left.

It is allways a surprise and fun for me, when i have visits from other blogowners in the world.

Now I had a look of your blog (sorry for my bad English) and I found a lot of good old friends. For example Alchemilla. I love this flower so much! And I have a big sortiment in my garden.

Lovely, the "pot-man" under the tree in your last post. I like him.

Have a nice week. Hugs and many greetings, Birgit

Connie said...

Great plant! Especially lovely after a spring rain, when the water droplets bead up and look like tiny diamonds on the leaves.

Cabs said...

I agree, Lady's Mantle is a great one. The hardy geraniums are another one I have many of and love how they fill in and add color and texture to the garden. Some of mine are also scented. This is particularly nice after an rainh shower. Great post!

sisah said...

True, Alchimilla is one of these plants you could call a garden hero: if it doesn´t look tidy anymore in late summer you just cut it off completly and it recovers without complaining and shows immaculate leaves the rest of the year.
I like the way you are mixing it with other plants, your photo show beautiful arrangements!
Thank you for visiting me on my blog!
Other hero-plants are the different kind of Geranium cultivars,one of my latest is Geranium 'Rozanne' even keeping up with the dry soil under my big pine-tree in the garden.
Sisah from Germany

Melanie said...

2greenthumbsup, you and me both, I still don't have a photo of Lady's mantle that I think does it justice.

flowergardengirl, Heucheras are great! I've heard a bit of singing about them from others but not enough yet.

Marie, I hope people click on your name so they can visit your beautiful blog and see your amazing photos.

gardenjoy4me, isn't that Alchemilla erythropoda the sweetest thing! I wish I had a photo to share but shucks, maybe 2greenthumbsup will beat me to it!

krisk913 I tried to reach you via e-mail but was rejected. I'll try again but otherwise, leave me another comment here.

Frances, here I can grow Alchemilla almost anywhere but maybe in TN it needs more shade and rich composted soil?

lintys, those darn monkeys! My dog dug up another whole clump of daylilies yesterday. That darn dog!

wurzerl (and all the foreign visitors here) you are all amazing to even try to correspond in another language. I understand German very well and speak it pretty well but would never dare to try to write it! Thank you so much for taking the time you do to leave a comment here. I'd be honored if you listed my blog on yours, I'll stop by and visit later this evening. I like your choices, especially the columbines which I too adore and rarely hear many comments about.

Blackswamp girl, yes, it is just so easy to tuck in a bit of that Alchemilla foliage with everything else.

Gail, I'm going to keep my eyes open for that Phlox, I have other types here and they do very well for me.

Birgit, thanks for visiting! I really enjoy reading your blog too.

Connie, don't you wish you could pick a few of those diamond off the leaves!

Carol, Hardy Geraniums? Hooray, another big favorite of mine!

Sisah, you too voted for Hardy Geraniums. Rozanne is a variety I hope to add this year. I have at least 15 different varieties of hardy geraniums here, they deserve a post of their own. Hmmm, I'd better remember that for a day when I have writers block.

Ellen Laprise said...

Hi Melanie,
I agree, Lady's Mantle is a wonderful edging plant. I just love the texture of the leaves, softness of the flowers and wonderful form. It easily sets seed to creat many new ones. Other favorites are Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Sedum seiboldii, Hosta 'Daybreak' and Hosta 'Halcyon'.
Nice blog, Melanie ! Ellen Laprise

jodi said...

I missed this post, somehow (damn Blogger!) but I'm with you on Alchemilla too. In fact I just used it as one of the must-have perennials in my most recent Herald column. It doesn't have to flower to be gorgeous, as you well know. This year I'm going to try something different and edge one bed with it, with something hot magenta nearby to set it off, probably a cranesbill, and see what happens.
My other unsung hero would be cranesbills, because they seem to be virtually indestructable. I have at least a dozen different species and cultivars, maybe more!