Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

Garden Obsession

Coin-shaped seed pods have earned Lunaria the common names of ‘money plant’ and ‘silver dollar plant.’

When I was young, one of my mother’s close friends had a garden tucked with all sorts of interesting things, such as  dill, horseradish, and strawflowers. But my favorite plant was her Lunaria because it yielded bouquets of silvery, translucent disks. Though named the “money plant” or the “silver dollar plant”, to me the seedpods looked like bundles of tiny moons tethered to the earth by slender but tenacious stems. The Latin name ‘Lunaria’ means “moonlike.”

Last year, my 7-year-old son discovered “money plant” seeds at the nursery and was instantly attracted to the idea of growing money. Lunaria is easy to grow, though we actually forgot we had planted it until this summer when the distinctive pods emerged. The Lunaria plant itself looks unremarkable in the garden, with broad, floppy leaves and clusters of shy, purple flowers. When the seedpods sprouted, they looked like flattened sugar peas. Then they turned a dirty brown that definitely looked unappealing (in fact, when I harvested a Lunariaplant this summer and left it on a patio table to dry, my husband tossed it on the compost pile). But peel back the dry husk and a shiny, papery moon reveals itself, ready to last for years in a dried flower arrangement or on its own.

The green seed pods and purple flowers of Lunaria.

My son, though, was a little disappointed he couldn’t spend the “money” we raised in our garden.

 

The dry, brown seed pod husks peel off easily to reveal translucent surprises inside.

Lunaria, a member of the mustard (Brassicaceae) family, originated in Europe and migrated to America with early settlers.  The plants are biennials, growing one year and flowering the next. The seeds sprout easily, making them a nuisance in tidy gardens. They bloom spring through early summer. In Zone 5, where I garden, the pods were dry and ready for cutting by early August.

 

How to Grow:

Direct sow Lunaria seeds in the spring and cover lightly with soil, then water.

Lunaria thrives in most soil types (even my clay!), prefer sunny sites but deal with partial sun. Fertilize once a year, if you’re into that sort of thing, and water if they seem droopy (but remember that Lunaria dislike consistently soggy soils). After the seedpods have turned brown, they are ready for harvesting. If not quite ready, you can hang upside down and dry for an additional week or two. Then simply peel off the brown layers on each side of the pearly “coin” and your Lunaria are ready for display.


Freeland Tanner created this wall art by arranging vintage tools, antique sprinkler, trellis, and used garden hoses on a base made from an old teak tabletop.

Every once in a while, you see something in someone’s garden that hits a chord. The Tanner garden in Napa, California, which we featured in the summer issue of Country Gardens, struck me not for the verdant plantings but for the innovative use of old garden tools, hoses, sprinklers and other cast-off items from gardens of the past.  In the Tanner garden, spades and pitchforks became a garden gate; metal flower frogs became wall art; old faded hoses were braided together to make garlands or used as stems for antique sprinkler “flowers”.

Antique sprinklers sprout from the ends of old hoses that have been threaded over bent rebars to create this fanciful sculpture.

It’s always endearing to me to see castoffs refreshed with new life.

Vintage metal flower frogs are skewered by repurposed bits of trellis for this artwork.

And for me, as Father’s Day approaches, the Tanner garden reminds me of my dad, who collected old tools. He spent years going to farm and house sales, buying boxes of old hammers and saws, bundles of rakes and wide brooms. Dad owned a large brick building, and he would take all his treasures to his “shop,” clean and fix them, and arrange them in patterns across the walls and along display shelves through the center. Dad has been gone for many years now—his collection sold to other collectors.

Shovels, pitchforks, and other garden tools, painted Ponderosa Green, form the core of this unique and emblematic gate.

He would have thoroughly enjoyed the Tanner garden. I know a lot of people who combine nostalgia with functionality and art, which extends to most of our Country Gardens audience as well.

Freeland braided worn-out hoses and hung them in swags to display a collection of vintage watering cans.


Buckwheat grows next to asparagus at the Food at First community garden in Ames, Iowa.

Buckwheat possesses a dainty charm, its frothy white blossoms buzzing with bees above its kelly-green leaves. And buckwheat makes an excellent cover crop in the veggie patch once you’ve harvested your early-summer lettuce and peas.  Just a little interesting discovery I learned last weekend during the second annual Edible Garden Tour in Ames, Iowa.  The garden tour involved eight different gardens (both community and residential) scattered across town.

I had gone to reap a few ideas for my own front-yard garden. Along the way I met people passionate about edible gardening, sustainable agriculture and community involvement. I also found pretty, red-stemmed okra and masses of rudbeckia luring beneficial insects into the garden. I found tomato plants heavy with fruit and blueberries just starting to turn red.

Garden tours serve as wonderful motivators to try something different,such as cover crops to add nitrogen to your soil and suppress weeds. Which is exactly what I will do, before it’s too late in the season.

Rudbeckia swarms with beneficial insects in this lush residential edible garden.

Food at First grows, collects and redistributes food items to those in need in Ames, Iowa.


A few years ago I tilled up the entire lawn in my front yard and planted herbs, veggies, fruits and edible flowers, but I had a dilemma. How should I handle the strip that runs between the sidewalk and street curb? I certainly didn’t want to eat anything that grew in street grit and car exhaust and was irrigated by passing dogs. Over time, that strip has turned into my test garden for perennials and a few annuals, such as this bunny tail grass (Lugurus ovatus). Bunny tail grass is like the adorable kitten of the botanical world. It makes me smile every time I see it bobbing playfully in the breeze. My 5, 8 and 10-year-old sons can’t pass bunny tails without giving the silky-soft seed heads a quick stroke.

I started the grass seeds in my pantry early last spring and transported them outside the first week of May. The grass is doing quite well in my fairly dry curb strip and has been very low maintenance. Right before the first major snowfall, I plan to clip a few bunny tails for dried flower arrangements. Until then, they can amuse my family and passers-by.


Sometimes a garden just hits you. Sometimes you walk into a garden so fabulous, your jaw hangs open for a period of minutes while you take in its glory. This feeling first happened to me at Ryan Gainey’s Atlanta home walking around his cottage garden and it happened to me again over the weekend at the greenhouse on the Anne Springs Close Greenway property just outside of Charlotte, NC.

greenhouse inspiration

 

Every corner of the greenhouse was as full as it could be with greenery, pots and plants. A lime tree, variegated bougainvillea, orchids, hibiscus, the list goes on. And the size of the fiddle leaf fig tree just blows your mind, doesn’t it?

greenhouse inspiration

The greenhouse of my dreams has shelves just like this – the perfect size for terra cotta pots en masse. I couldn’t get enough.

greenhouse inspiration

greenhouse inspiration

greenhouse inspiration

greenhouse inspiration

I spotted this Starfish Flower Cactus (Stapelia grandiflora ) from all the way across the room. I have never seen anything like the star-shaped flower that blooms at the tips of these branches. It’s quite a sight, especially with at least a half a dozen blooms right behind the first large flower.

greenhouse inspiration

greenhouse inspiration

Orchids galore… Here are a few tips on growing your own.

greenhouse inspiration

greenhouse inspiration

And a little treat tucked far in the back near the wall, a baby pineapple sprouting up!

greenhouse inspiration

All photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa


Japanese Anemone tomentosa Robustissima

Hands down, my favorite late summer and fall perennial bloomer of all time is the Japanese Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’. An absolute non-stop flowering gobstopper for weeks on end by my front step from late August through October. Originally I chose this plant because it is known as the hardiest and easiest Japanese Anemone to grow, but soon it’s captivating wind Japanese Anemone tomentosa Robustissima  side view flowers and bee laden blooms became my favorite September flower-power plant.  In fact, bees can be found smothering the flowers the entire bloom season, so anemone is a lovely plant to attract pollinators to your garden. Best yet, this is the perfect perennial to toss in the ground then ignore for most of the season.

How To Grow Robustissima Anemone

While anemone love a rich, moist planting site, this particular variety will do well in average and even sandy soil. Add plenty of organic matter to enrich existing soil before planting. Robustissima Anemone is the most adaptable of all the anemone’s to drier conditions, but need more watering attention initially until they are established. Once established, plants form a low mound of green leaves with tall branching stems that produce interesting branches of bud balls that will develop into attractive soft-pink five petaled flowers.

Anemone Robustissima do well in full sun to part-shade and are tremendously easy to grow. I leave the seedheads up all winter for interest and clean the beds in early spring before green shoots redevelop. Divide every few years in the spring to keep the plants in check. Add additional organic matter like compost to the beds, mulching well, in the fall.

Japanese Anemone with Bee


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