The alchemilla mollis has always been the classic cottage garden favourite. Undemanding by nature, all she ever asks for is a little sunshine to show off her curvaceous leaves and frothy yellow petticoats.
She is commonly called ‘lady’s mantle’, a reference to the shape of her lobed leaves which resemble the cape worn by Victorian ladies.
The name ‘alchemilla’ has an even older origin. The shape of the leaf collects drops of rain that glisten with purity and these drops were preciously gathered by alchemists and used in their search for the transformation of base metals to gold.
In these parts though she is often affectionately called ‘aunty molly’ and will always be a firm favourite in our borders.
Some decry her voluptuous fecundity and certainly she has the tendency to generously spread her offspring throughout the garden if she is given half the chance. At this time of year her yellow cymes are turning a russet gold as the seed begins to form. Ruthlessly cutting the leaves and flowers back to the ground will prevent her seed from spreading everywhere. No doubt she will look forlorn and shaven for a few days but will soon grow new fresh leaf that will look good all the way through autumn.
One can always have too much of a good thing though and perhaps her ubiquity can make her seem too common but when she is used thoughtfully she remains a dearly beloved favourite who brings her own inimitable charm to the summer garden.
Another hard-working companion in the borders is the hardy geranium ‘rozanne’ which is still in full swing when all the others have finished.
My day is spent pulling and cutting out the dead leaves of the hemerocallis and hostas and bergenias and afterwards they look satisfyingly refreshed. This is a pleasantly relaxing way of spending the day whilst listening to the cricket on the radio.
I don’t know whether all this crop-circle malarkey has gone to the heads of Charlie and Bones but they are both driving the tractors sporting sombreros, and very dashing they look too…
Come Sunday my wife and I headed off to Shearwater Lake that lies a few miles over the Wiltshire border. We settled on a grassy bank for our picnic and watched the antics of the dinghy sailors who were out in force for a competition, the klaxon blaring out whenever anyone crossed a line of buoys.
In front of us were three anglers laid back on loungers. Their rods were set up on stands with all the latest technological paraphernalia attached. Bleeping sounds from a monitor warned them as soon as a carp ever considered taking a bite of their bait. One angler was on the mobile phone to a friend on the other side of the lake; it seemed that nobody was having any luck catching anything and so our intrepid anglers settled stoically back into their loungers, took another sip of cider and waited patiently.
We finished our picnic and walked up the path that leads into the heart of a conifer forest. When we returned the anglers had left, gone elsewhere no doubt in pursuit of the elusive carp…