Flowering Alchemilla mollis spilling onto Yorkstone garden path – © GAP Photos/Paul Debois
Alchemilla mollis, or Lady’s mantle as it is commonly known, is a very useful perennial due to its unfussy nature and attractive pale green leaves which look so pretty against other plants. It is a particularly proficient ground-cover plant, and along with its frothy yellow flowers, it looks lovely spilling over a pathway or softening the front of a border.
However, it can be quite invasive – often shading out other plants around it and growing at an alarming speed in the summer. It also self-seeds very freely, so expect to see seedlings pop up around the garden as the growing season progresses – which can then be dug up and moved to other parts of the garden as free plants.
The best way to deal with its speedy growth is just to cut it back midsummer, or when it looks unruly. Lady’s Mantle actually responds well to this, pushing up fresh new leaves very quickly during the growing season, and often a second flush of flowers.
Cutting back Alchemilla mollis – © GAP Photos
You can be quite brutal with this perennial when you cut it back, cutting stems right to the base. Take as much back as required to leave space for other plants, as well as damaged and tired looking leaves.
As well as cutting back when required through the summer, you may want to do a final tidy up in the autumn, or cut back in the early spring as fresh growth starts to appear.
Cutting back Alchemilla mollis – lady’s mantle – after it has finished flowering – © GAP Photos/Jonathan Buckley
Using pressure washer to clean patio slabs – © Michael Howes/GAP Photos
With less strength in the sunlight during the cooler months, areas of hard paving often remain wet for days (if not weeks) on end. This allows the likes of moss and algae to grow on the upper surfaces, causing slippery, hazardous conditions to fester. Tripping over in icy conditions is dangerous – ankles, knees and hips often come to harm as a result. Areas in shade or with poor air flow are most likely to become covered in growth, so pruning back overhanging or excess growth can help to abate the problem.
It should be pointed out that moss, algae, liverwort and lichen don’t harm the surfaces upon which they grow. Rather than feeding on the hard surface as a parasite, these plant-like organisms simply use the area as a place to grow. In fact, a covering of moss on an old stone trough, or lichen on some ancient garden ornament can soften and age the look of the item in question. It’s only really necessary to control them on walkways. Bleach- and acid-based formulations of patio cleaners can be used with care (always follow the label instructions). Alternatively these growths can be physically removed. A screwdriver or sharp stick can be worked between block pavers and masonry pointing, for example, to remove excess moss. If you have larger areas to clear, consider a pressure washer but ensure that your paving is sound – the strong jet of water can dislodge loose fragments. If you fancy working up a sweat on cool autumn days, a stiff-bristled brush will work off the worst of these growths.