The Lunaria ‘Chedglow’ are having their moment and offering the garden its first flare of colour. Welcome this early, their licorice foliage has an iridescent sheen, which adds depth to the surge of spring green as the flowering spikes rise to bloom. A darkness that this selection is famed for and why we keep them in a separate area of the garden from the paler Lunaria annua ‘Corfu Blue’, which would sully their richness if they crossed. First vibrancy, a dark, rich violet, less violent than the more usual mauve of green-leaved honesty. It is this depth of colour, both in flower and leaf, that I love here for not eclipsing the soft, primrose yellow of Molly-the-Witch, but highlighting its paleness. Over time, and as the refining process continues, I have added darkest indigo Camassia leichtlinii to the partnership, which puts a quiet sting into the palette.
I sowed my first plants from seed, which comes as easily as mustard and cress, raising a dozen that I worked into the gaps in the newly planted garden. Biennials and annuals are useful in a new planting to add a lived-in feeling and for filling space whilst slower growing perennials find their feet. I hadn’t bargained on the profligacy of the lunaria on our rich hearty soil.
In the winter months the silver penny seedheads of honesty are easily as wonderful as the flowers, catching the light and living up to their lunar imagery and so it is tempting to leave the adults standing. My first plants – which flowered in their second year – were allowed to run their course, because I needed the next generation, but the rain of seed has been exponential. There were enough to replace the parents and move on pleasantly to naturalise amongst my perennials and then suddenly the balance tipped as they do what good pioneers do and found a gap in the system to dominate.
Five years in and I am happy to admit that the ‘Chedglow’ are running amok. We have an uncountable number of seedlings and quite a task in April to thin them down to a manageable number. Always fewer than you think you might need and spaced further apart and only in the gaps where you can see they will not overwhelm a neighbour with spring stealth and dominance. This year we are thinning the seedlings harder and will cut ninety percent of the adults out as soon as they have gone over to leave just enough for their winter skeletons. Even now I know I know I will be tempted to leave too many, but I am prepared to put in the effort next spring for what they give in return.
Words: Dan Pearson | Photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 6 May 2023