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One such gem is lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis, hardy to zone 3). Grown in gardens since the 16th century, this foot-high (30-cm) perennial has sea-green leaves and a springtime froth of yellow flowers. The leaves gather mist and rain as droplets, prized in days gone by as “celestial water”. In folk medicine, tea made from dried leaves (4 g or 1⁄2 tsp. per cup) is believed to be healing for menstrual complaints and mouth infections. Added to the bath, it’s considered a balm for lower-abdominal ailments and skin rashes.
Meanwhile, lady’s mantle is prolific and hard-working in the garden as a low-care groundcover or edging plant. Some say it’s deer resistant, although the deer in my garden seem to disagree!
Another workhorse most assuredly does repel deer – also rats and even insect pests. Drought-resistant catnip (Nepeta cataria, zone 4), is also a gardener’s best friend, providing cobalt-blue summer blossoms in dry and hard-to-plant spots. A nightly cup of tea brewed from its leaves is said to safeguard against insomnia. Having tried this myself, though, allow me to recommend lemony Nepeta cataria ‘Citriodora’, quite delicious compared to its wicked-tasting cousin!