10 November 2014

🐝 🐝 🐝 MONEY PLANT (Lunaria annua)

LUNARIA ANNUA dried seed pods
 Mideke porcelain pot.
Shaw Island 2014.
Common names: Money Plant, Honesty, Silver Dollars.

Source: This plant has been growing on Shaw Island with two long-time islanders, Gwen Yansen and Mary Lou. Since the number of gardening years they have enjoyed on Shaw added together tops 100, let us list Lunaria annua as a Shaw Island Heritage Plant. The plant could have been introduced to the island by previous owners of their early established gardens, the Biendl and the Fowler families.

Native: The Balkans and SW Asia;  naturalized through the temperate climate of the world.

Life cycle: Herbaceous Biennial. References list it in both categories, but internationally known author/gardener Christopher Lloyd suggests it has a "stupid" specific epithet. If grown properly it makes large, well-branched plants in the second year.

Nomenclature: The name Lunaria means “moon-shaped,” referring to the seedpods. In SE Asia it is called “money plant” and in the US it is commonly known as “silver dollars.” In French, it is known as Monnaie du pape (“the Pope’s money”) In Denmark, it is known as judaspenge, an illusion to the story of Judas Iscariot and the 30 pieces of silver he was paid for betraying Christ.

Tolerates: Shaw Island deer have let me grow this plant at the Gatehouse garden mixed in with Carol's foxgloves. 

Height: 2 to 3-ft
"Money Plant"
A ceramic pot of this biennial growing from
Gatehouse seeds.
Angel's, Shaw Island, spring 2018.
Bloom: Mid spring-summer, fragrant, magenta-purple. A favorite for honey bees.

Growing Region: USDA Zone–– down to 4a.

The degree of Difficulty: EASY

Propagation: from seed. Direct sowing with a depth of 1/4". Spacing 4-6". Then at maturity thin 12-18".

Days to Sprout: 14-28.

Uses: Vital nectar plant for bees, butterflies, and birds. Cottage garden, flower arranging, flower borders, butterfly and wildlife gardens. Esteemed gardener/author Christopher Lloyd, in his book Cottage Garden, Prentice-Hall (1990), suggests Lunaria as a specimen we should grow. 

Bloom time: Spring to Summer flowers. If the flowers are not picked for bouquets there is autumn interest with flat, translucent, round and papery seed cases resembling little moons. These can be brought inside for use in dry arrangements or they can be left in the garden where they will re-seed.
Lunaria annua at Priona Garden
by Scott Weber.
A Piet Oudolf inspired garden tour to Holland and Germany,
 September 2015.
Notes: Some sources say to direct sow in fall and some say to wait until spring. In the PNW climate, I’m sure we can take our pick. Needs no pampering. It prefers partial shade but will tolerate full sun. Seems happiest growing among other plants. Lunaria develops thick storage roots, deep tap roots, so if kept in small pots for any length of time this prevents roots developing and will cause distress. Requires moist soil.
      Once established it will continue to produce a display each year.
      Artist Claude Monet grew this flower at his famous Clos Normand Garden, at Giverny.


Before the days of sophisticated dried flowers, "Honesty" was popular at Christmas and New Year's; after it had been arranged it would often stay in the vase for months.
      Now there is keener interest in the winter garden and the seed pods of the Silver Dollars can add interest to a bleak winter landscape.
      The key to getting good “silver pennies” is to make sure that the seed pods are perfectly dry. Cut the stems bearing seed pods and hang in bunches upside down in an airy room to dry. Once dry, gently remove the outer seed casing before using them for arrangements.

      In October, I brought some seed pods inside to dry. It was a delight to see them transform from rag-tag battleship gray to clean, translucent, silvery white.

Favorite reference for research on Lunaria annua;

“Honesty, or money plant, is one of those plants that is always appreciated but rarely used to its full potential. True, it is valued as a dried flower––for its silvery seed heads that look like coins––and for the wild garden, especially in its delightful but underused white form.
      In naturalistic or woodland situations some seedlings are best left where they sow themselves. In any shady situation planted with less delicate woodlanders, they can be allowed to do their own thing.
      The purple honesty looks excellent with white or yellow tulips.
       Lunaria will self-sow perfectly in perennial plantings. The gardener can take a hand in the look of the planting by removing self-sown seedlings from inappropriate positions and moving them to more advantageous ones.”
      The above quote from Discovering Annuals. Rice, Graham. Prentice-Hall. 1990. 
Lunaria (Money Plant)
Fat, fresh seeds for sale under the Viking Dragon
at the Gatehouse, Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island.

04 November 2014

🌿 MARY LOU's Nasturtiums 🌿


Eye to eye in November,
with the luxury of greenhouse quarters.
Shaw Island, WA. 2014.
No enhanced image, the Nasturtiums
come fully packed with color.
No one needs an introduction to the well known botanical specimen, Tropaeolum majus. Nasturtiums are one of the most foolproof and versatile of all summer annuals. This variety gets star status for being a long time friend of gardener Mary Lou, of Shaw. If you read further you will see why the famed artist, gardener Claude Monet, gets top billing along with our island neighbor.

Common Name: Mary Lou's Trailing Nasturtiums
Life cycle: Hardy Annual
Growing region: Zone 1-10.
Degree of Difficulty: EASY
Bloom time: Mid summer to autumn frost.
Flower description: The newly collected seeds are from Mary Lou's very happy, trailing Nasturtium. There are a few of a medium yellow shade, perhaps with odds of 10%. One can choose to rogue out if one of the colors doesn't suit your design. The solid orange suits me to the ground; the official varietal name is not known, so it is hereby "Mary Lou's," of course.

Origin: Originally from South American Andes from Bolivia north to Columbia. It was first cultivated in Peru and introduced to Europe in the 16th C by the Spanish conquistadors. There are dwarf varieties (Nanum) and this offered seed, which is the trailing (Majus) form.

Germination: 7-21 days. Distinctive seedlings can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily.

Cultivation: Sow direct where they are to grow instead of transplanting.
They prefer well-drained soil in full sun of the Northwest, but are difficult to keep flowering in the hot sun of the south. They will tolerate some drought but bloom best when watered in their growing season. Several sources say Nasturtiums do better with soil of moderate to low fertility.


Studies say this annual is among the best "flower trap" for attracting predatory insects.
Attractive to Hummingbirds.

Uses: Cottage and informal gardens; hanging baskets, tubs, and containers. Ideal for children.
Good for filling bare spots or along the edges of your flower and vegetable beds.
Flowers, leaves, and seeds are all edible for peppery additions to salads.

My favorite reference for this Tropaeolum study;
Russell, Vivian. Monet's Garden, Through the Seasons at Giverny
New York. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 1995. 

"The piece de resistance of Claude Monet's Giverny––unique to Giverny––is the carpet of trailing nasturtiums leading the way along the Grande Allée toward the front door. This effect was already in place in 1892, according to a photograph from that date, and was probably used even earlier. How was it conceived? One can only guess. On fine, warm days the family lunched on the wooden green veranda that ran the length of the house, under a canopy of Virginia creeper, roses, wisteria, and aristolochia. Monet always sat with his back to the house, facing the garden and gazing down the Grande Allée. He would have noticed in other situations the creeping, trailing habit of climbing nasturtiums and their capacity for covering the ground far beyond where their roots are anchored, and being a canny and resourceful character, he may have thought that this would solve the problem of the Grande Allée. The sturdy, reliable nasturtiums were planted on either side and allowed to creep toward one another and toward the light in the middle of the path. By September, only a narrow sinuous path was visible between the sea of undulating leaves, brilliantly translucent in the sun and making waves of frothy acid-green on which floated orange flowers. The whole concept was not that far removed from the water lilies that would later float on his pond. Even the disk-like leaves of the nasturtiums echo the shape of the water-lily pads that were to come.
      At Giverny today, great care is taken to make sure the nasturtiums perform on cue. The seeds are planted in spring directly in the soil along the Grande Allée after being soaked for 24 hours in warm water. The seeds, two planted every 2 inches, are supplied wholesale by weight, and identified as nothing grander than 'medium high,' 'high climbing,' and so on. Although extra sowings are made in the greenhouses simultaneously in case the seeds fail in the main garden, they have always proven dependable and so far, have carpeted the whole of the Grande Allée by mid-September every year.
      Nasturtiums figure prominently in Monet's late summer and fall garden, and as with all the favorites of his early years, he remained faithful to them, growing annual and perennial varieties over many years. He grew some––probably annuals rather than perennials––up the tuteurs in the island beds in front of his house and in his paintbox beds."

A quote below from a favorite American garden writer, the famous gardener/author, Celia Thaxter (1835-1894) who chose to garden on Appledore Island, ME., operate one of the first summer resorts in the country, and surround herself with guest artists such as the great painter Childe Hassam (1859-1935.)

"In the case of Nasturtiums––these are among the most beautiful and decorative of all––every one is twice as valuable if given the support it demands. Nasturtiums, which seem with endless good-nature ready to adapt themselves to any conditions of existence, except, perhaps, being expected to live in a swamp, it is not so important that they should have something upon which to climb. A very good way is to put them near a rock one wishes to have covered, or to let them run down a bank upon which nothing else cares to grow. They will clothe such places with wild and beautiful luxuriance of green leaves and glowing flowers."
Thaxter, Celia. An Island Garden; Houghton, Mifflin, & Co. 1894. 
There is a special reprint published in 1977 by John M. Kingsbury, Director of Shoals Marine Laboratory who also took charge of the restoration of Thaxter's garden.
To tour her garden under the care of U of NH and Cornell, see this link

Fresh crop of these seeds, at the
Gatehouse, Squaw Bay Road.