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Posts Tagged ‘dried flowers’

I have come to like many of plants that have been in gardens for hundreds of years. I love to find out the stories behind their common names. Some plants I have grown and others I like from afar, most of these plants have shown that they are still worthy of being in a garden somewhere. One plant has I like has velvet-like leaves and tiny chartreuse flowers. I bet you know what I mean and if you can not guess …..Lady’s Mantle(Alchemilla mollis) is its name.

Tiny chartreuse flowers and the sage green velvety leaves of Lady's manltle (Alchemilla mollis) are the feature most loved by gardeners and florist alike.

Tiny chartreuse flowers and the sage green velvety leaves of Lady's manltle (Alchemilla mollis) are the feature most loved by gardeners and florist alike.

Lady’s Mantle is a plant that comes to us from northern Greece east into western Russia and into the Caucasus then south all  into 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.  A close relative Alchemilla xanthocholra was formerly named A. vulgaris and is the European version of Lady’s Mantle. It is said to be less hairy than A. mollis.

The green-blue leaves of Alchemilla mollis are seductive and beautiful especially in the rain. One can really imagine a Lady's Mantle made of soft material which looks like this foliage.

The green-blue leaves of Alchemilla mollis are seductive and beautiful especially in the rain. One can really imagine a Lady's Mantle made of soft material which looks like this foliage.

Alchemilla mollis is a plant often seen frothing over the edges of paths or edging paths with its softness in flowers and foliage. It is a beautiful foil to cover unsightly bare stems of all sorts of larger plants and is used this way in many places. The name Lady’s Mantle is said to have come from the edges of the leaves that are similar to a cloak (or mantle) a lady would wear. The orgin of Alchemilla is unknown but is thought to possibly have originated from a Arabic world that has been ‘Latinized’.  Mollis means soft or with soft hairs and refers to the leaves.

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) is used here to soften edges of this sunken Rose garden at Esquimalt Gorge park

Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) is used here to soften edges of this sunken Rose garden at Esquimalt Gorge Park.

Species of Alchemilla and especially the look-a-like Alchemilla xanthocholra have been much used in medicine in the past.  The plant contain salicylic acid (ASA), a strong pain reliever that we use today. Lady’s Mantle was used as a herb for women and was gathered in June and July, the roots were used fresh while the leaves were used when dried.  It was used for painful periods and was especially  associated with excess bleeding as well as during menopause. It was also used as an astringent in mouth washes for sore gums and ulcers.

In this artistic garden the charteuse flower colors of Alchimilla mollis contrasts with the more somber plum and coppery rust tones.

In this artistic garden the charteuse flower colors of Alchimilla mollis contrasts with the more somber plum and coppery rust tones.

Alchemilla mollis is a versatile plant which can be used in many places from fairly deep shade to full sun. That versatility also applies to the growing conditions as it is not to fussy in soil type as long as it does not become water logged or completely dried out.  This plant stays a fairly compact 45 cm.(18 in.) wide and high.  It is a very hardy plant and will survive temperature down to below -40 c. or f. (zone 2-9).

Here Alchemilla mollis take over from hardy Geraniums and leads the Hostas and Asilbes in a wave of color and texutres.

Here Alchemilla mollis take over from hardy Geraniums and leads the Hostas and Asilbes in a wave of color and texutres.

 Lady’s Mantle can be used in many ways but it will always be more informal as the plant is loose looking and soft. The most often seen use is as edging along paths where it spills over and softens edges. Another use is to hide more gangly larger plants long stems. It works well in large containers and give an all year show of color and texture. It should be found in all floral arrangers gardens as the leaves, flowers and seedheads all are used in bouquets. The chartreuse color of the flowers and sea-green foliage of Alchemilla  mollis is beautiful in most gardens and the colors are appealing to the eye, many artists have been inspired to include it in painting and other works. it can be mass planted and used as ground cover and is especially attractive in rocky areas popping out amongst the rocks.

A serving of Alchemilla links please:

Wiki page on Alchemilla species: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemilla_mollis

How to grow it:http://www.uvm.edu/pss/ppp/jan99per.html

A French gardener write about Lady’s Mantle:http://www.frenchgardening.com/inprofile.html?pid=311933322533616

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When I write one of these articles I first do some research. I might think I know a plant quite well but I always learn some more in the process of looking in various places. I need to make sure of the botanical name, where it comes from and if possible I like to know who discovered the plant and why it was named. I also like to make sure I know the best way to grow it and what to expect in climate, pests and disease. It is not just  it’s looks and scent which are important, it’s a total of all aspects of the subject that help to inform me if this is the kind of plant to I would recommend. Without a doubt there will always be some mysteries I can not figure out. One such plant for me is the Echinops (Globe Thistle) that is seen growing in gardens for I can not say for sure ‘which species is which’ with any great authority. In this case it really does not matter as all Echinops are shining stalwarts in the garden and should be grown more.

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen form in the Victoria area

A beautiful steely blue Echinops ritro, the most commonly seen species in the Victoria.

Echinops have been known and noted in writing as early as the 16th century, it was Linaeaus who gave them their formal name in 1753. Echinops Latin name meaning is very descriptive; echinos(hedgehog) ops(looks like), put it together and you have an ‘Looks-Like -a-Hedgehog’ plant!  Globe Thistle are old world plants which means they come from Europe and spread through parts of Asia and northern Africa. Not surprisingly theses are members of the Asteraceae(Compositae) family which many other thistley things belong. All members of this family have composites of many tiny flowers which are close together. The Echinops flower structure is a good example of this, each of it flower ‘spheres’ is just that; a ball of tiny flowers close together.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Echinops or Globe Thistle are a good example of a Composite flower.

Many people do not think of spiny plants as being attractive garden plants and Echinops show how wrong we are about this.  All parts of this plant are beautiful, the leaves are whether they are grayish or bright green are thick and leathery and stand up well through the seasons. the spherical balls which turn into the flowers are stunning during their whole development. The overall silvery grayness works very well in with many colors in the garden and this makes Globe Thistles very versatile.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

A favorite planting at Government House with Echinops as the star at this time of the year.

We must consider ourselves lucky as Echinops are extremely easy to grow and are very hardy. Like all slightly silvery plants Globe Thistles like as much sun as they can get, full sun is the best to bring out the fullness of color. Full sun will also help combat any possibility of mildew discoloring the foliage. Average soil will do. Less than average amounts of water is better, these plants do quite nicely in drier situations and are less prone to disease.  Echinops are all large plants which can reach 2m(6ft) in height and nearly as wide.

his appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

This appears to be Echinops spaerocephalus with it's maroon toned flower stem.

Generally Echinops are considered hardy to zone 4(-20c) but I have read about situations where they live in places with temperatures regularly going down to -40f(-40c) or zone 3a. Echinops flowers are excellent in arrangement and as dried subjects they should be harvested before the pollen shows. Globe Thistles are prickly but not so much as to be really dangerous.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

This Echinops exaltatus looks other worldy floating in the trees.

The many shades of blue, the silvery overtones on the foliage and unusual flowers, what more could one ask for in a plant? I like the foliage hairy, prickliness which contrasts with all the other smooth leaves which usually surround Echinops.  It makes me think of the common thistles living here and makes me wonder how one might use them in a landscape. When looking to buy a Globe Thistle you can choose a named form which will give the certainty of color or you can grow them from seed.  In species you can usually choose the blues of ritro, bannaticus, humilis and several more. Whites are commonly  represented by exaltatus and sphaerocephalus . Seed is easily germinated with no special tricks needed.

A Great

A great Globe Thistle planting at Finnerty Gardens with late summer colors.

Now is the time to Look for Echinops in gardens, the late summer heat here has produced a bumper crop this year. I have found them in many of the larger public parks which have perennial borders. Usually they are far enough in the plantings so that no one has to worry about little ones grabbing them and being surprised or scratched.

This very blue Echinops  is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

This very blue Echinops is at Glendale Gardens in Saanich.

More information on Echinops:

The Asteraceae family and their intricate flowers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteraceae

Look at the middle of this page to see what others have to say about growing this plant: http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/634/

Growing Globe Thistles: http://www.garden-grower.com/flowers/echinops.shtml

Until we meet again Later….

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