WORDS: ‘Honesty’ is out of the ordinary

As I work my way through my New Year’s Resolutions, we come today to my resolve to have a few plants in my garden that are a bit out of the ordinary. I hate it when I’m predictable, and I hate predictable gardens.  It is a wonderful thing to be walking through a garden and to find a plant that surprises you or to find a plant being grown in such a way as to surprise you. “There is no beauty without strangeness,” said Sir Francis Bacon. Think back on your life. It is the things that are mysterious that attract or enthrall you. Remember what I said about my wife? My wife has always been a mystery to me. The mystery is part of the attraction.  I resolve to have a garden that has some mystery in it.

One of the plants I’m looking for is Lunaria annua. Sometimes the plant is called ‘Honesty’ because the seedpods are amazingly translucent; you can see though them. The Puritans in New England used this plant as an example of the saints standing transparent before God, hopefully with an honest and pure conscience. Lunaria has pretty, pink little flowers that are followed by seedpods that, when they dry out in late fall, look like silver coins. Lunaria seed is not easy to come by, but  I have found a seed company called Seeds of Italy (seedsofitaly.net) and have ordered Lunaria online from them. They will have to come all the way from Europe. This company’s web page describes the plant as “known in Italy as Lunaria Moneta del Papa (the Pope’s money because he is not allowed to carry any!!).”

The other plant that will be growing in my garden this year is the tree known as Chinquapin (Castanea pumila). The Chinquapin is rarely seen these days, except back in the woods. It produces an edible nut that old timers here in East Texas truly relish. A good friend gave me a small seedling this last fall, and I’ve set it out in my little backyard where I hope it will become a nice size tree (40’)The tree itself will be and look unfamiliar to most folks, and I’m pleased to have it in my little landscape. Hopefully. the very presence of the tree will add an element of the unusual and the unexpected.

Well, I’m not for sure what else I will be planting this year, but I’m flipping through seed and plant catalogs. The Forest Farm Catalog came this week in the mail. It is practically a reference book for plants that are grown in North America. You will want to call and ask for a copy. It costs $5.00, but it’s worth twice that just for wintertime reading. If you’re interested in U.S. horticulture, this is the catalog for you. Contact them at www.forestfarm.com or 541-846-7269. Or you might try Woodlanders, which is out of South Carolina and is a first class mail order nursery. I’m sure you will find something mysterious and exotic for your garden from their catalog. Their address is 1128 Colleton Ave., Aiken, South Carolina 29801, and their phone is (803) 648-7522.

Finally, there are other things I plan for my garden to add a bit of mystery and surprise, but I won’t tell you what they are yet. It would spoil the effect. Every gardener should have as his aim to entertain, maybe even shock, visitors to the garden. You want them to see something they’ve never seen before or to see something grown in such a way as to ask, “Oh, what is that plant?” or you want them to think “I would never have thought to grow that plant in such a way.” Aim at mystery.

Photo:The unique little herb known as Lunaria (and in New England, known as “Honesty”)

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