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Honesty peeling

  • Honesty peeling
  • Honesty peeling

It's that time of year when the annual or biennial Honesty (Lunaria annua) has finished flowering, and is now producing those famous flattened seed-heads, beloved of flower arrangers.

If you have never looked closely at Honesty seeds before, or if you have always wondered why yours don't look like the shimmering silken beauties in the flower shop, well, now is the time to get out there into your garden and “peel” the flower pods.

Each flattened disc is made of three layers, with the seeds flattened between them. The central membrane is the beautiful bit, they are silvery-shiny and translucent. However, left to their own devices, these lovely membranes remain covered by the dying brown outer layers, which grow increasingly black and disgusting.

So, to reveal the beauty and enjoy it for yourself, all you have to do is peel off the two outer layers, without ripping the inner one. If they have already gone brown, and feel dry and crackly, like paper, then you can gently rub them between your finger and thumb, and they should flake away, scattering the seeds as they do so.

Personally, I prefer the slightly slower but more careful method of taking each seed-pod in turn, and gently bending the tip until it de-laminates, then peeling it back.

And - this being my Tip Of The Month, if you like - I have just discovered, just this season, that you can carry out this operation while the seed pods are still green - you don't have to wait for them to go brown! The green ones actually peel very easily, and the silvery inners are in pristine condition. As a side benefit, it is entirely possible that the flat green seeds, being unripe, might not germinate!! As anyone who has grown Honesty knows, they seed prolifically, and once you have one plant, you will have them in your garden for life.

There is nothing quite like seeing the low afternoon sun (or early morning, for that matter) shining through those translucent membranes, turning them into silky lights: in my opinion, growing Honesty and not taking the time to peel the seed pods is rather like cooking a good meal and then not eating it - you are missing the best bit! Yes, it's a bit fiddly, but I tend to do ten minutes or so, when I have the time, and the result is just so worth it (“Dahlings!”).

You can even place a trug or plastic tub underneath the ones you are working on, to catch the fallen outer scales and seeds... my first photo, above, shows a plant with just the top few seed pods peeled - and can't you just see the difference?! - and the second photo shows the effect en masse, half-way through the operation, with the tops of the plants all peeled, and the lower parts yet to be done.

So, if you have never tried this, pop out to the garden, and spend a little time gently peeling your Honesty. You'll be amazed at the result.. Honestly!

Comments (4)

  1. Grower

    Amanda CW

    Lovely tip - I didn't know! Thank you Rachel.

  2. Grower


    Thank you, very handy tip. They are now on my 'to buy' list :) Lovely effect

  3. Grower

    Susie Edwards

    My problem is I never seem to get seedlings!! I harvest the heads so eagerly and early I never get any new plants!.

  4. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Susie - you must be a phenomenally efficient dead-header, to catch every single seed! No matter how I try, some always get through... and of course, being biennials, the first-year seedlings are pathetic little scraps that don't look like much, so they are easily weeded out. Perhaps you can set aside one single plant, and allow it to go to seed and die naturally?

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