Dead Nettle

'White Nancy'
Spotted Deadnettle

"The flower that freshly blooms to-day
To-morrow will be swept away."

-from Jane Elizabeth Holmes' Esther (1865)

This patch of 'White Nancy' Lamium, or Spotted Dead Nettle (or Deadnettle), is a cultivar of Lamium maculatum which is native of Europe & North America.

It prefers part shade but will also survive in deep shade. It requires almost no attention to thrive, just so long as it never experiences complete dryness (& it can even bounce back from drought-caused deathly appearance when water is restored).

It does need rich loose soil & if the ground is compacted, it will not grow to best advantage. If over time the soil does become compacted & poorly draining, poking a pointy rod into the soil in several places & giving it a good jiggle will loosen it up without having to dig up the Dead Nettle.

Dead NettleThe late spring & summer blossoms are pure white. The flowers are strongest in June but can be present May through July, with a smaller rebloom in August. Pleasant though the flowers are, the leaves are much showier. The green & white leaves are almost coleus-like but vastly more suited to the outdoors in temperate zones where coleus can only be used as an annual. 'What Nancy' leaves look airbrushed with silver paint.

What I hadn't predicted but which became evident after this patch of 'White Nancy' was established is that such white-blooming varieties have weakened impact of their short spikes of flowers, merely because blooms do not stand out against white & green leaves. In the uppermost photo from July (2002) there's a receme of flowers shown a bit off-center, but you'll have to look awfully closely to see them. The second photo is from June (2004) & despite that there is a large white bloom right in the center of the photo, it is all too obvioius how it almost disappear against the silvery-white foliage.

Dead NettleThere are other cultivars with flowers that are pink, dark pink, rose-red, purple, or lavender. These contrast more boldly with silvered or white-patterned leaves.

Lamiums with yellow & green leaves rather than white & green do provide more contrast for white flowers. So we've added 'Anne Greenaway' with variegated yellow foliage & lavender flowers, & 'Pink Pewter' with pink blooms over silvered leaves, mixed in with the 'White Nancy,' though 'White Nancy' seems to be the more aggressive plant.

Yet in 'White Nancy's' favor are the quality of its self-seeding offspring, as not all varieties remain so true to the culivar as they spread & reseed through the years. Plus it has one of the finest silvered leaf pattern of so many leaf-types that exist. It's beauty & ease of cultivating gained 'White Nancy' the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. This prestigeous award, bestowed in 1993, has led to 'White Nancy' becoming the most widely available cultivar.

Spotted Dead Nettle stands only six or eight inches tall, but spreads into a complete groundcover spring through autumn. In the warmer south, it is semi-evergreen through winter, though it has to be protected from heat or it'll trade a rather scruffy winter presence for die-back in summer. On Puget Sound it is its nicest for three seasons; this particular patch died to the ground most winter, but in winter of 2002/3, a lot of it was still bright & pretty that season too. Even though it usually dies to the ground in late autumn, it always returns early spring, being cold-hardy to a high degree.

This particular Dead Nettle lived for a few years underneath a Red-twig Dogwood between fence & rainbarrel. This garden was "disinstalled" after about seven or eight years & I never replanted 'White Nancy' as I'd always kind of disliked the fact that the white flowers on white leaves made the flowers invisible. The next time I planted Dead Nettles, I selected such cultivars as L. maculatum 'Aurea' with pink flowers, for greater leaf/flower contrast.

Continue to:
Lamium maculatum 'Pink Pewter' dead nettle



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