Enkianthus…. I remember thinking it was a funny name for a plant when I was a child and heard my mother talking about the Enkianthus campanulatus in her garden. Now I have two Enkianthus campanulatus in my garden and I still think it’s a funny name…. and it’s fun to say!
It’s a native of the Far East, growing in mountainous areas of Japan and China. The Enkianthus campanulatus or the redvein enkianthus is a desirable woody plant for our zone 5-6 but for some reason it seems to be a rather uncommon choice for gardens around here. In early springtime the plant shines with heavy clusters of small pendulous bell-shaped blooms, white with red veined streaks. Bees of all kinds love them. Butterflies love them.
In the summer, it’s a nice green backdrop for other blooming plants. As glorious as it is in springtime, right now, the end of October, the shrub gives us its best display. Fall hues of coppery red and orange light up the border and bring you to a halt while walking through the yard. The fall foliage for me is more of a showstopper than the blooms of spring, a time when so much else is in color.
Enkianthus is a slow-growing plant but I hope to be around long enough to train the shrub into a small tree with layered branches to replace the Styrax japonicus, my Japanese snowbell tree that grew in this spot and died suddenly.
When I was employed at Rolling Green Nursery, this plant was often requested by shoppers. From one week to the next, when I reported for work, I noticed the plant was practically sold out in my absence. That much requested perennial is Alchemilla… lady’s mantle. I wasn’t too familiar with it as I didn’t grow it in my zone 8 Virginia garden but, now I have fallen under its spell in my seacoast New Hampshire garden. I started with two plants as accents in a border and they quickly charmed me so much that I now use them as a groundcover in another border. Lots of lady’s mantle there and I am rewarded with plant pizzazz!
The blooms of the lady’s mantle are frothy clusters of yellow/chartreuse that cover the plants this time of year. Each individual bloom is about 1/8-inch wide and shaped like a little star. The clouds of blossoms stand erect above the mound of attractive leaves. However, as the blooms become heavy, they can become a bit floppy. That’s when I cut those heavier stems for flower arrangements. They look fabulous alone in a container or stunning as a filler in mixed arrangements. And… a bonus… they seem to hold color for me when they are air-dried.
Lady’s mantle does self-seed and some folks will deadhead all the flowers before the seeds ripen. The tiny seeds, one per flower, ripen when the blooms become dry and brown later in the summer. I do allow some self-seeding but cut most blooms. During the heat of the summer, I keep the plants well-watered and after deadheading I am rewarded with a flush of fresh growth in the fall.
The leaves of lady’s mantle are like shallow rippled cups and have tiny soft hairs that cause water droplets that form either from rain, fog, or evaporation to roll around on the surface and hang on along the edge of the leaf.
My variety: Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) ‘thriller’ – zones 3-8