Featured Plant No. 5 – Lunaria annua

aka ‘A Happy Mistake!’

Lunaria annua var. albiflora at Chartwell.
As enjoyed by pollinating insects everywhere…

This white-flowered Honesty is currently going mad in the Winter Border here at Chartwell. And this is all because I made a mistake when sowing the seeds last year! The correct time for sowing Lunaria seeds is any time from January when the seed pods start to ripen, right through to late Spring. However, I didn’t sow ours until well into the Summer last year which meant that they didn’t flower at all until now. Instead they put on lots of vegetative growth throughout last Summer and Autumn. This allowed them to survive the Winter perfectly well and then put on another growth spurt now that Spring has arrived. The predicted height for each plant according to the RHS is between 0.5m and 1m. Ours are already over 1.5m tall and still growing! This is great news for us, not only because of the amazing spectacle of these giants, but also because it gives some more height and structure to the Winter Border, now that the likes of the Sedums, Asters and ornamental grasses have been cut down to ground level. They really dominate this part of the garden at the moment as can be seen from the picture below…

A bit like Day Of The Triffids!
But prettier…

Despite their ‘annua‘ species name, as described above, Honesty is a biennial plant. This means that it takes two years to complete its biological life cycle from germination to death. Awarded and RHS AGM award, this Honesty has a bushy habit and as we have seen, is fully hardy. Originally from Europe and Western Asia, they thrive in full sun or can also tolerate part shade easily. They enjoy fertile soil that is moist but importantly also well drained. Luckily they are not fussy about the pH of their soil, thriving in alkaline, acidic or neutral soils alike. I chose this white flowered Honesty (also known as the Satin Flower) mainly because of the amazing silver, papery seedheads that will flutter and sparkle in the Winter winds. They self-seed freely within a site, so make sure you want them to stay where you plant them or you might find yourself weeding out Lunaria seedlings every year otherwise!

Lunaria annua plants usually show off their many flowers from late Spring and last through to mid-Summer. Because ours have bloomed slightly early, it will be interesting to see how long they last. Come to Chartwell now and enjoy them while you can!

Jamie

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