How many times did Dad tell me, “watta ya think? Money doesn’t grow on trees! Ya know.” In a family with five children my folks had to budget carefully to make ends meet but there was always one of us that just didn’t catch on that we were not rich. It never failed that one of us would ask for some extravagant something at a time with money was tight and that was Dad’s response every time. Money doesn’t grow on trees! Well, it does grow on a lovely woodland plant.
Early this morning while walking the dog I notice my honesty plants sill showing a few lovely purple flowers and best of all, they had “money” on them. Not the real thing of course but the circular/oval shaped pods looking distinctively like thin coins. The pods are not quite ripe enough and it has rained in our area for far too many days to count this summer. Eventually though I will enjoy seeing silver disks in my shade garden enriching it with a pearlescent moon glow.
As a child, we had a neighbor that grew this fantastic silver dollar plant in her wooded yard behind their barn. It was magical. If we could only get some of that plant, we would be as rich as sultans. We could buy ANYTHING! Our imaginary shopping with this pretend money only fueled our excitement when summer’s bounty was at its peak. Being so careful so as not to break any of its beautiful round flat pods, we would strip the plant clean, not understanding the need to replant this biennial beauty. To this day I often think of our neighbor Jenny and wonder how she ever got any of them to replant and grow for future years.
I’m sure you know of it or have seen it in dried flower arrangements even if you don’t know the name. Honesty is the common name given by the English for the silver dollar plant. Wikipedia gives a more thorough definition here for Honesty or Lunaria Annua its official botanical name.
Mostly, I remember when seeing it grow in the cool summer shade our childhood imaginations would soar. To a kid without an allowance in 1960 just thinking about all that “money” was like falling into Ali Baba’s treasure cave. Money; that elusive commodity that very few in our circle had at the ready but everyone wanted. Our friends were just like us; no allowance hence, no money. We were all terrible stewards of our money when we got any. As soon as any one of us had a few real coins in our pocket, we were all planning a trip to the Ben Franklin five and dime store to buy penny candy to share.
In the middle of summer, when the money plant was ready we started planning our play businesses. After sneaking into Jenny’s back lot and harvesting all her honesty we squirreled it away in our play forts in the wooded lots where we spend most days. Once totally dried, we’d patiently peel back the outer coating to reveal the silver circles saving the outer pods for mud pie decorations. Our silvery coins provided hours of make believe transactions in our make believe shops. I fondly remember after waiting for what seemed like forever for them to dry enough to peel the outer coverings, gently working so as not to break any of the delicate silver disks. Then, those of us that found this mother-load of treasure, counted them like we hit the lottery. We truly believed we had the Midas touch. Endless hours of play involved sewing together leaves and flowers to make garlands, finding enough water, sand, mud and berries to make mud pies, setting up our shops, selling and counting and the next day starting all over again with the same coins. Businesses like grocery stores, ladies shops and bakeries selling all manner of necklaces, garlands, hats and mud pies were started each day and there was a great deal of haggling but in the end the best part of finding the honesty plants were the hours of imaginative play.
Looking back, I find it interesting that a plant with a name such as Honesty was dishonestly snatched from a neighbor’s woodlot, and used for so many hours of constructive play. I wonder if Jenny knew what we were up to and just allowed us to have our fun.
For the past 38 years, this wooded haven has been my home. The honesty plants were here when we bought the house and I imagine they will be here long after we no longer live here. But when they ripen each year I take a few moments to fondly think of all those wonderful summer days spent practicing to be a businesswoman. And I am grateful to a neighbor that either didn’t notice, or turned a blind eye to our childhood escapades.
With just a few more days of warmer dry summer weather the pods will dry enough, and the outer husks will drop off to reveal the silver underneath. The seeds will resew themselves without too much help and next year the honesty will blossom again. Maybe this year I’ll fill a vase with some honesty and think of my idyllic childhood summers.
FYI: Those large mushroom shapes in my garden (center photo) are vintage light globes, about 18 inches across and 6 inches deep, turned upside-down on old bird bath bases. Everyone loves them. So do I!