Tag Archives: Carol Klein

Lunaria annua

I’ve finally discovered the identity of the little clutch of seedlings under the smoke tree.


Lunaria annua, which I saw lining the pathways of *Western Hills, the former plant nursery in Occidental, California.

Western Hills photo by MB Maher.

I’ve been hoping to entice lunaria to naturalize and bloom with spring bulbs and Helleborus argutifolius, which also throws its seed around with wild abandon. A single Geranium maderense that bloomed last spring carpet-bombed the area with seedlings, so initially I mistook the lunaria for more late arrivals from the geranium. The lunaria’s seedlings also came from just a single plant, a variegated selection that bloomed under the smoke tree Grace this past spring. Rather than bring the transparent seedpods indoors for a vase, I tore them apart and shook them over the ground.

Photo found here.


Lunaria annua is a biennial known, strangely enough, as both Honesty and the Money Plant. Although not a rarity, still the possibility of getting a self-perpetuating colony going of this charming plant has me gleefully counting the little seedlings and moving them around to shady areas of the garden, which are admittedly few. The translucent seedpods or “coins” are an old-timey, dried flower favorite. If I’d taken a moment’s care, peeling back the membrane would have revealed the three flat seeds encased in each pod. Carol Klein discusses history and propagation here.

And in another lunaria triumph, seeds of the perennial Lunaria rediviva have also germinated. Source of these seeds was Derry Watkins.

Annie’s Annuals & Perennials is a mail order source of Lunaria annua, including the dark-leaved selection ‘Rosemary Verey.’

(*NB: In an update on this post on Western Hills, Chris and Tim Szybalski of Berkeley’s Westbrae Nursery have since become its new owners and will be preserving the garden.)


Every so often I come across a word that tunnels straight into the murky recesses, boring into that dank station in the brain where rusty thoughts rumble around and bang like aimless cars in a railyard. Thoughts with otherwise no timetable for arrival, no destination known. Just knowing such a word exists is enough to set one of those idle railcars in motion, rumbling down the track and into focus

An opportune moment to pause for a photo of The Atocha, Madrid’s astonishing, jungly, former railway terminus, from “The Ten Most Impressive Railway Stations.”
I could plan entire trips around gardens, railway stations, and libraries.


As I was saying before risking derailing this little narrative with that glorious photo, which incidentally does serve to illustrate my point of seeing things in new ways, like envisioning a railway station as a gigantic tropical conservatory….


Last week the word was “habituation.” It has a specific scientific meaning and usage, but what appealed to me was the scientist, Jonathan Schooler’s quick sketch of the word for the lay person in the magazine article:

Habituation is why you don’t notice stuff that’s always there. It’s an inevitable process of adjustment, a ratcheting down of excitement.”
(12/13/10 The New Yorker,The Truth Wears Off,” by Jonah Lehrer.)

And, no surprise, I’m relating habituation to making gardens, our own personal gardens to be exact. The inevitable “ratcheting down of excitement” that comes from having only one garden to view day after day, and sometimes becoming numbingly acclimated to it. Traveling, visiting other gardens, whether in blogs, books, magazines, or in person, are time-honored habituation busters, a means to see anew and clarify what the heck it was you set out to accomplish in the first place. You’d think we’d be weepy with disappointment from too much garden visiting, but my little garden never pleases me more than when I compare it to others, even gardens far superior, because at such moments I feel the most intensely connected to the ageless tradition of garden making. Being a participant in that tradition is literally and figuratively the ground under my feet.

Another disrupter of habituation is the camera. This morning I was surprised by a couple different views when trying to make the most of an early misty light rinsed in fog. One unseasonal bloom of Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’ changed everything.


Photographing the salvia from the back of the garden made me take notice of the drama of kangaroo paws against a solid backdrop.



I know, kind of anticlimatic after that train station photo (from Wikipedia). For another good dose of anti-habituation, if you have a half hour to spare this Sunday I’d recommend watching Carol Klein’s Life in a Cottage Garden. There are some annoying ads to contend with, but Carol’s tour of her garden is just what’s needed for those of us habituated this February to our personal garden scenes of unremitting snow, mud, or just the same-old/same-old.