Monday, September 10, 2012

Why Honesty is honestly one of my favourite plants.

   As a compulsive researcher, I find facts are addictive. Even before the worldwide web was invented, I used to spend hours in libraries, carting stacks of books to a table, scribbling notes, and squirreling away all kinds of arcane bits of information.  (Speaking of the web, I heard a terrific radio interview the other day with Internet-inventor Tim Berners-Lee. When the interviewer asked him the reason for those two forward slashes after the "http" and colon, he said he didn't know. Can you imagine the gazillions of unnecessary key-strokes that decision led to?)
   So, honesty. Or rather Honesty. Or, as fact-digging has made evident, any number of other names for this most easy-going of plants. Americans call it "silver dollars." Elsewhere it's known as "Chinese coins" or "coins of Judas." Good reasons exist for all of these names but my personal favourite is the accurately botanical Lunaria annua. "Lunaria" presumably because each seed pod looks like a full moon and "annua" because it's an annual.
   Early each spring, in one of the more unkempt parts of our garden, honesty plants spring up with abandon and in abundance, a great drift of foot-high plants with small purple flowers that relieve the sombre bed of ivy that usually occupies this spot. Time marches on, Nature does her thing and, by mid-summer, you can make out the opaque round seeds through their vivid green casing, especially when the sun shines through them.
  A couple of days ago, I harvested some of the stems, the pods now dried to as many shades of yellowy-grey as there are in our stone walls.
   Rubbing off the thin papery skin either side of the central "moon" releases the seeds (which I've saved to scatter sometime soon). What I was left with are these glimmering, gleaming miniature moons. Every vase in the house is now filled with them.
    Get your hands on some seeds if you can and scatter them freely. They will grow anywhere, in any kind of soil it seems, need no care at all, and reproduce as generously as Victorian paterfamilias.

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