A favorite filler among flower arrangers.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
1 FRUIT OR FLOWER? E1 Stars erupt. Pronounced “al-kem-ILL-uh,” this plant produces bunches of tiny, star-shaped flowers that erupt from fuzzy, gray-green circular foliage.
2 FORESTS AND MEADOWS. Alchemillas are native to mountainous areas of Turkey, Russia, Northern and Western Asia, and the South American Andes. The plants favor stream banks, meadows, forests and rocky ledges.
3 A ROSY FAMILY. Alchemilla is a member of the Rosaceae (rose) family. It has many relatives including roses, Spiraea, Pyracantha, Cotoneaster, apples (Malus), pears (Pyrus) and hawthorns (Crataegus).
4 SO MANY NAMES… The common name “lady’s mantle” is from folklore that suggests this plant adorned the Virgin Mary, and the lobes of the leaves resemble the scalloped edges of a mantle. The genus name Alchemilla is from the Arabic word alkemelych for “alchemy.” It was given because of the medicinal, wonder-working powers of the plant.
5 … AND ONLY ONE COLOR. The most widely cultivated species, A. mollis, blooms only in chartreuse (yellow-green).
6 FROM SPRING TO AUTUMN. Alchemillas are most plentiful from Dutch growers from April through October and from California growers in June and July.
7 BUYING RIGHT. When shopping for these flowers, choose bunches that are at least one-third open. Be sure there are no signs of bruising, browning or rot. The sprays should be turgid and perky. Check the stems and leaves for any sign of yellowing or mold.
8 PROCESSING IS EASY. Process Alchemillas immediately upon arrival in the shop. Remove all packaging and bindings, and cut at least 1 inch from the ends of the stems. Dip or place the stems into a hydration solution, then place them into a container filled with properly prepared flower food solution. Note: Alchemillas exude sap that can clog stems, so keep them apart from other flowers until designing with or selling them.
9 FRESHEN UP. Store Alchemillas in a floral refrigerator at 36 F to 38 F to extend the shelf life of the blossoms. Frequent misting also is beneficial to their development. Instruct customers to change the vase water and recut the stems every other day and to mist and cool these blossoms nightly to extend their lasting quality. With proper care, Alchemillas can last up to two weeks.
10 MEDICINAL ACTION. Alchemillas have astringent and styptic properties because of the tannin they contain. At one time, they were considered one of the best wound herbs and are used in modern homeopathic treatments to stop bleeding.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 27 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
Thanks to Roy Borodkin of Brannan Street Wholesale, San Francisco Flower Market; San Francisco, Calif., for contributing information.