Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Yellow Archangel - Resembles Dead Nettle and Smells Like A Weasel?

Yellow Archangel.  The name evokes a visitor from on high.  I suppose it's derived from the appearance of the flower which is yellow and appears to be winged.  Its botanical name is Lamiastrum (pronounced lay-mee-ACE-trum) galeobdolon (pronounced gay-lee-OB-doh-lon) and refers to characteristics not so lofty.  Translated, it means "resembles dead nettle and smells like a weasel."  Thus, its other common name is "dead nettle", which it shares with Lamium (pronounced LAY-mee-um).  Sometimes, in fact, Lamiastrum is included in the genus, Lamium.  Both plants belong to Lamiaceae, the Mint family.

At once, you'll recognize Lamiastrum's relationship to mints in foliage and flower.  Leaf shape is ovate and toothed, the most popular varieties being variegated.  The flower is similarly shaped but much larger than other mints.  The fragrance, however, is not so pleasing.  Lamiustrum grows up to 18" high and spreads up to 24" by runners.  It does attract bees and butterflies. 

Lamiastrum is native to much of Europe, but was introduced to North America as an ornamental plant.  Finding much to its liking, the plant has made itself at home.  Which is fine if you really like it, as I do.  The foliage is beautiful and the flowers are very attractive.  It is most effective as a ground cover, especially in light shade.  Provided that its needs are met, it requires little maintenance.  It thrives in partial to full shade in USDA climate zones 4 to 9 in well-drained soils with pH ranging from 6.1 to 8.5.  It's somewhat drought-tolerant when established.

Prepare the planting bed by cultivating at least 6" deep, removing all traces of weeds. Compacted soil should be cultivated to 10" deep.  Add enough soil to raise the bed at least 4" above the surrounding ground level. This will help to promote good drainage. Composted manure may be incorporated into the soil.  Incorporate 10-10-10 fertilizer at a rate of no more 2 lbs. per 100 square feet into the top 4" to 6" of soil. Avoid synthetic fertilizers contacting any part of your plants. 

Space the plants 18" to 24" apart. Dig planting holes into the cultivated soil a little less deep than the depth of the growing container. Place the plants into the holes and back-fill, watering as you go. Press soil around the root balls. Do not cover entirely the root balls with soil. The tops should be slightly exposed. Add a top-dressing of mulch around the plants, not on top of them, about 1" deep.

Because it likes well-drained soil, plant Lamiastrum with other plants having similar cultural requirements.  Fertilize sparingly and allow soil to dry between watering.  Over-watering is the most frequent cause of failure.

Lamiastrum has no serious pests or diseases.  What's more, deer don't like it.  As mentioned before, the greatest cause of failure is over-watering.

Should you include Lamiastrum in your garden?  In some parts of the country such as the Pacific Northwest, it is considered invasive.  Check with your local Cooperative Extension office to determine whether it is appropriate for your area.  Lamiastrum does exactly what a good ground cover should; it covers ground beautifully.

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