Cloaking your garden with Lady's Mantle

   Alchemilla, Lady's Mantle, is a wonderful plant in the perennial garden.

Almost a ground cover


   This low growing perennial does not quite grow into a ground cover height, but it may turn out to be a bit aggressive like one. After growing it for three years, I wouldn't call it rampant but the planting does expand in size quite nicely.
   My variety of Lady's mantle, A. mollis, is from 12 to 14 inches tall. There are shorter varieties 6 to 8 inches tall, A. alpina, suitable for rock gardens.

Bouquets and drying

  While chartreuse is not necessarily my favorite color, Lady mantle's flowers are a nice change in the garden when it blooms in late spring and early summer, mostly in June for me. The flowers last well when cut, up to 14 days, and may be dried for winter bouquets as well.
   To dry Alchemilla, cut just before reaching the full-bloom stage. Hang by bunches upside down in a well-ventilated, dark area. If too far along in the blooming cycle, they won't dry well, so you may need to experiment to find just the right timing.

Leaves add charm


   This plant's kidney-shaped leaves are hairy and give it its unusual charm. The short hairs grab onto water droplets and sparkle in the sunlight after a rain or heavy dew. Its large leaves do tend to get weighted down when watered by sprinkler, but bounce right back as soon as they dry off, unlike peonies in flower.

Summer pruning


   If the plant gets too bedraggled looking in the mid-summer heat, shear it off and it will rapidly regrow a new set of leaves.  This trait can be a boon if your garden gets hit with hail. As the blossom stems age, they begin looking tatty and require deadheading as well.

Shade to partial shade
   Lady's mantle does well in shade to partial sun, but enjoys a cool root run that remains moist. It will not tolerate a hot, dry location. Hardy to a USDA Zone 3, this plant can be expected to last upwards of 25 years if handled properly.

Self-seeding

   If spaced suitably in the beginning, you won't need to transplant for six to ten years. Earlier in the column I said the plant may tend to be a bit weedy. This is due to it being able to form seed without pollination. When it gets out of hand it is easy to control by
deadheading religiously.
   On the other hand, if you want extra plants, try laying spent flower stalks in beds where you wouldn't mind the plant seeding itself. If the seed germinates, you can expect to see bloom within two years. If you want to try raising the plants inside a greenhouse, plant the fresh seed, which will germinate in one to three weeks.

Stratification


   If the seed is old, it may need stratification to germinate, cold treatment, for six weeks before being brought into normal light and temperature conditions.

Transplanting

  To transplant Alchemilla, lift a clump in early spring just as growth is beginning. With a sharp spade or a knife, divide each clump into pieces, making sure that each has a strong root system. Replant immediately and water.

Fertilize
   In early spring, fertilize with a balanced fertilizer. If you are searching for an organic alternative, try using alfalfa meal (rabbit pellets), blood meal, bone meal, compost or manure.

Ajuga, bugleweed

   While Alchemilla is sometimes used as a ground cover, Ajuga, known as bugleweed, definitely fits that description.

Groundcover

   A. reptans spreads vigorously through underground root systems. While this may be ringing bells in your mind that you don't want anything to do with it, there are places where Ajuga is the answer to a problem. Capable of growing in sun or shade, Ajuga makes an almost impenetrable mass, which controls all but the most pernicious of weeds.

Under trees


   If you have bare spots under trees in your lawn, try Ajuga to replace the grass. In dry shaded areas these plants will do fine and these tough conditions may actually help to keep it in check.

Varieties

  Many of the Ajugas bloom in spring with blue flowers. Varieties like 'Pink Beauty' bloom pink and 'alba' blooms white. Because more of the plants' lifetime is spent without flowers, it behooves us to choose the leaf color more than the shade of bloom.
   'Atropurpurea' offers bronze-purple leaves. 'Catlin's Giant' has bronze-green foliage and 'Silver Beauty' has gray-green leaves with white edges.

Crown rot

  Crown rot may attack your patch of bugleweed leaving gaping holes behind. Good drainage and air circulation is the key to prevention. If crown rot strikes, remove the damaged plants and dust with sulfur to control spreading of the disease.
   Bugleweed is most often increased through division.