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Sunday, August 24, 2008

The secret of Lunaria

One of the few plants that was growing on this property when we moved here was Lunaria. I had never grown it before and really didn't pay it much attention.

Lunaria is a biennial, meaning that it lives two years. The first year it only grows foliage and the second year it blooms and scatters seeds. If you want your biennials like Lunaria to return year after year you have to let them go to seed.

The good news about Lunaria is that it has an interesting seed pod so people tend to leave it alone until it finishes scattering it's seed.

I have seen beautiful bunches of Lunaria seed pods in other homes or for sale at garden shops but the Lunaria in my garden always looked dingy to me. I just figured I had a different type and never really looked too closely.

This week I began to clean out a bed which had the above shown clump of Lunaria in it. As I was working near it I discovered something I had never known before.

Here's a close up shot of the Lunaria. See how dirty some of the seed pods are? They are transparent enough so you can easily see the seeds inside them.

I was under the impression that there were two outter pieces and the seeds were on the inside. Now I know I was wrong. There are three thin pieces of pod. Two outside pieces and one inside one that is protected from the rain and dirt of the garden.

Cutting off the dried branches as close to the soil as possible I started to clean each individual pod. It just takes a light rub with two damp fingers. Don't rub to hard or you'll rub off all three layers. Since I suddenly realized what a treasure I had here I wanted to save every seed possible so I did this over a piece of paper so I could gather the seed and scatter them in beds that didn't have Lunaria in the past.

See how nice and shiny the inner layer is?

Finally, here's the real treasure. A beautiful bunch of Lunaria in a simple old pitcher. This arrangement will last all winter long if not longer. I made sure I placed it in a spot where the sunlight would come through the pods. How I wish I hadn't weeded out so many Lunaria seedlings over the last years.

When I first made this discovery I came running in to show my two teenage daughters. It was a true "duh" moment as they looked at me and said "mom, how could you not know this?". Then they reminded me of all the years they played with the seed pods as they were young children. Emily told me that she always got three dollars from one pod. No wonder she acts like money grows on trees :-)

Lunaria has lots of nicknames. Around here we called it the "money plant" or "silver dollars". My girls used those seed pods as money for many an imaginary game. I guess I have to thank them for the fact that Lunaria is still growing in my garden.

Hopefully now I've scattered enough seeds in various beds that next year or the year after I will have lots and lots of bouquets to share with friends.


Gina said...

Melanie - this is so pretty! I never knew what these were until last weekend when my neighbor showed me hers which looks just like yours. Now that I've read your post I'll be sure to go over and ask her if she'll share some seeds.

Melanie said...

Hi Gina,

Good thinking! I always tell people that if they see a garden has lots of something, to ask for a piece or for some seeds.

I truly believe that the first sign of a great gardener is that they have enough plants to share with others and they do so generously. As far as I'm concerned, if a gardener doesn't share then they aren't truly "great"!

Smiggle said...

Okay, now I am going out to look for
these seeds!
Did you spray them with any of the
dried flower sprays?
Thanks for posting this one on the

Melanie said...

Thanks smiggle, I never thought of spraying them! If I had more of them I would do exactly that. I'd spray them with silver glitter and save them for Christmas.

These though are just natural. They look amazing when the light shines through them. Just like luminous moons.

Pam/Digging said...

I love money plant, and I suppose with regret that it must not grow in Austin, as I've never seen it here. Your arrangement looks especially nice in the silver pitcher.

Sherri said...

Melanie, thanks for sharing your Lunaria story-I had forgotten about this wonderful, beautiful palnt! I love the bouquet you picked and brought in your house-it is beautiful!!

Ewa said...

Melanie, thanks for sharing this. Actually I never connected these seed pods with that plant - these flowers lately were spotted by my eyes and I wanted to have it, but I didn't know what it was :)

Anna said...

I'm so glad you stopped by my blog. I have missed connecting with you and your beautiful gardens. Love the post today. And it really would make a grand gift! I bet nursing homes would love it cause it's so old fashioned. Their folks would really love seeing something from their past. Plants can evoke the best feelings when nothing else can.

easygardener said...

I had Lunaria in the garden when I first moved in but over the years they have disappeared. Your lovely seed pods have inspired me to try again.

Smiggle said...

There is a clear spray for dried
flowers to make them last longer.
I use it on my larkspur. It works
great keeping your dried flowers
from falling apart.
Thanks again for all the tips and
beautiful pictures!!

Angie said...

What an interesting plant, I don't think I've ever seen it before. I guess I'll be looking for seeds now...


Beth said...

Interesting post, Melanie. I had never heard of lunaria - but I really like it as dried flowers in your old pitcher.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

That made a beautiful bouquet!

Francie said...

Great post! I always wondered what plant those beautiful pods came from, I'll have to plant these this season!

Unknown said...

This is the first time I have realized that this is a real plant! My grandma used to have a bunch of these in a vase in her house, I guess they were artificial, but I had no idea that there was a real plant that looks like this. Thank you for sharing your technique. I am going to look for some seeds now!