The subtle gray-green leaves and charming chartreuse flowers of Alchemilla have made it a garden staple for over a century. Its versatility and easy-going, low-maintenance personality make it a natural for today’s gardens, too.
What’s in a name?
The colloquial name “Lady’s mantle” is said to be rooted in religious legend that likened the scalloped leaves to the Virgin Mary’s cloak. The plant’s roots and leaves were also used medicinally, made into a soothing tea and poultices for wounds.
Alchemilla is native to Turkey and the Carpathian Mountains. The Latin name dates to the Middle Ages: It refers to alchemy, the ancient practice where science met magic. One of the plant’s charms is how raindrops and dewdrops bead and glisten on those soft, gray-green leaves. Alchemists believed that water to be purified, and would painstakingly gather it for their experiments.
Today the plant’s only wizardry has to do with its lovely appearance and ease of cultivation. The foliage is pleasantly neutral without being bland, so it blends easily with more assertive colors. Clusters of tiny, star-shaped chartreuse flowers appear in late spring/early summer. The flowers are a striking addition to floral arrangements, fresh or dried.
In the garden, no special care is needed as long as there is adequate moisture. It’s a natural for pond edging. A little irrigation is helpful in full sun situations, especially during dry periods. Alchemilla likes uniformly moist soil with good drainage.