Low Growing Lady

Alchemilla mollis with morning dew in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Alchemilla mollis with morning dew (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Low growing plants are a necessary garden commodity for those of us that don’t want to be slaves to formal edging, and many can be used to add contrast and texture to the overall design.  One perennial that has an accommodating personality without being bully-ish is the charming Lady’s Mantle, otherwise known as Alchemilla mollis.  Content in a sunny locale (with adequate moisture), and equally happy with some shade, most gardens could find a spot or two for this desirable companion.  

Lady's Mantle grey foliage in A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Lady’s Mantle grey foliage (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Alchemilla (pronounced al-kah-mill-ah) is a noteworthy addition to the zone 4-7 landscape for many reasons; compact size (about 18″ tall with a gentle spreading nature), ornamentally interesting foliage (leaves are olive green to grayish-blue in color, with serrated edges) and delicate clusters of non-clashy lemony, chartreuse florets are borne on upright stems that reach above the foliage in perfect accompaniment.  And did I mention the charming way that water beads on the leaflets as if they were just coated with wax?  After a summer rain or with the morning dew, the droplets sparkle like tiny glass beads randomly sprinkled about.  What a way to start the day!

Although I grow and adore Alchemilla mollis, there are other alternatives that are even more compact, with a few that might work in an alpine setting as well.

* Alchemilla alpina:  At a third of the size of cousin mollis, this 6″ X 12″ look-a-like is also zone 4 safe and will tolerate the same sun to part shade conditions.  The more delicate leaves are tinged with silver edged in brilliant silver, and the early summer flower is dainty as well.

Alchemilla erythropoda:  A zone 5 dwarf at about 5″ X 10″ with a grayish-green foliage and vibrant citron flowers in May that may turn a reddish cast once they are spent.  A perfect choice to tuck into small nooks and crannies.

*Alchemilla glaucescens:  Also hardy to zone 5, this form grows to 10″ X 12″  with velvety, olive-green palmate foliage and effervescent sprays of lemon-lime flowers in May that appear to float above the leaves. 

*Alchemilla ellenbeckii: Allow this petite 4″ X 12″ zone 6 low rider to weave its way around a footpath (tolerates light foot traffic) or create a dense carpet in the moist, shady areas of your property.  The spring flowers aren’t as showy, but it has bright red stems that add contrast instead. 

*Alchemilla saxatilis: An ideal plant for containers, rock gardens or along pathways, this 6″ X 12″ zone 4 mounding form has defined fingerling leaves with a hint of frosty grey on the edges.  Short sprays of frothy blonde clusters appear in early summer.

Chartreuse Flowers of Alchemilla float above foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Chartreuse Flowers of Alchemilla float above foliage (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Whichever charming Lady you invite into your habitat, consider removing spent flowers once they’ve browned to keep her tidy.  Your alchemilla will also appreciate a little spritz of H2o during the most intense hot spells to prevent leaf scorching. A little primping and tending will result in beautiful, happy plants that will provide you with years of pleasure.

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