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Drying honesty seedheads
This week I have been harvesting honesty seed cases, cutting the stems and propping them somewhere warm and dry until it is possible to peel off the casings and reveal the bright mother of pearl of the inner casing.
I posted a picture on my Instagram and immediately my inbox filled with messages of memories - people who recalled sitting with mothers and grandmothers slipping the casing off, sweeping up the seeds at the end, a great pile of bright discs on the table.
I remember this too, both as daughter making great flower arrangements to brighten the dark corners of my parent's oak panelled hall, and as a mother, making the wreath in the photo with my younger daughter.
There are activities that keep the hands busy but the mind free to wander, simple repetitive activities that can be done together, activities that enter the fabric of our lives, fondly remembered, passing down generations.
It is, I believe, the attraction of the quilting bee, the podding of peas in June, the carving of crosses into the heels of brussels sprouts on Christmas Eve.
A companionableness, a chance to talk, conversations wandering about, intimacy.
It is a break in the frantic pace of life to just do something simple and soothing.
- Honesty - lunaria annua - is originally from the Balkans. Its Latin name means 'moon shaped' and the name 'honesty' is C16th in origin and probably refers to the translucent membrane on the seed cases. In America it is called 'silver dollars', in South East Asia it is the 'money plant'. It has naturalised right through Europe and happily grows in the dappled dry shade of hedgerows and at the edge of meadows.
- Honesty is sweetly scented, attractive to butterflies and is a traditional cottage garden plant and useful cut flower. I grow it with late tulips and it is especially beautiful with the voluptuous soft peach tulips like Belle Epoque.
- It is a biennial - so most seeds sown now will make leaves all winter and then flower next June, some will make larger plants and not flower until the following year - thereafter you will probably always have some honesty as it gently self sows.
- Most plants are purple - from a dark reddish purple through to a paler blue purple - but some are white and you can get seeds of the white sport commercially. It is a seed that germinates best fresh though.
- Sow direct into the ground in short rows, about half a centimetre deep.
- It is possible to tell which seedlings will be white and which purple by looking closely at the leaves, the purple ones will have a slight purple tinge in the middle of the leaves. I leave them to be a happy jumble.
Honesty is the simplest plant to dry - its strong structure is already there, there is nothing that can shrivel or droop.
- Cut on a dry day - damp seed heads may go mouldy
- Cut the stems down a bit and stack somewhere dry and warm. If I am doing this just for myself I often just put the stems in a large vase.
- Leave for a couple of weeks until it is easy to peel back the outer casings from the top.
- Carefully remove both sides from the seed casing and brush off the seeds.
The plants that I have been harvesting this week are destined for members of Snapdragon Studio - especially for making honesty heart decorations. The produce from the garden is only one of the perks of being a member, if you want to know more about Studio Membership you can find out here or email me Jane@snapdragononline.co.uk.