(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 23, 2009. We present it again today, as everyone recovers from yesterday's annual dreaded tax day.)
The economic news we hear is bad and worse. Stock market prices are plummeting, small and large companies are going out of business and the future looks bleak. It's a good thing we have our gardens to relax in, to restore our souls, revive our spirits, and rekindle our faith in nature, if not necessarily human nature.
To the right is the lovely hellebore 'Silver Dollar'. Yes, not only is the foliage quite striking, with its silvery coloration, but this hellebore is part of what I call Investment Gardening, where the plants themselves bear names representing the "silver dollars" we've put into them. Whether with "silver dollars," "gold coins," or simple "money plants," the plants in this article will show you how to make a mint, or at least enjoy a cup of mint tea.
If stock performances have got you concerned, you can always take the offensive and grow old-fashioned night-blooming stock right in your garden. There are many members of the Matthiola genus available to the home gardener, all paying rich dividends. Scatter low-growing night-blooming or night-perfumed stock hither and yon in your garden where you will be able to inhale its heady fragrance in the evening. Garden stock, also known as gilly-flower, became popular in Europe during the Renaissance era as a cool weather annual. It is now available in tall, dwarf, bushy or trailing forms and has diversified its color choices from the original pale lavender and white. You can start it from seed or pick up some stock seedlings at a qualified nursery. Incredible as it may seem, garden stock is a member of the cabbage family! Under favorable circumstances, Matthiola species may self-seed, increasing your initial holdings many times over.
Another stock option worth considering is Virginia stock, or Malcolmia maritima. Like garden stock, above, it is a fragrant cool-weather annual. Sow seeds directly in late fall or early winter for flowers the next spring. PlantFiles reports indicate that Virginia stock will self-seed, eliminating the need for further upfront expenditures. GOLD IN THE GARDEN:
Maybe you feel more comfortable converting your assets to gold bullion. Gardeners looking for 'Gold Bullion' are in luck: there are 'Gold Bullion' cultivars of Hosta, tall bearded Iris, hellebore, pumpkin and daylily, as well as the lovely Centaurea montana 'Gold Bullion' to the left, perhaps named for its chartreuse foliage. My personal favorite source for gold in my New England garden is "basket of gold" or "gold dust," both names for what I know as Alyssum saxatile but which others call Aurinia saxatilis. A sweet-smelling, low-growing, fast-spreading perennial, suitable for rock gardens, basket of gold is easy to imagine cascading from your own personal banks.
For tropical, indoor, or greenhouse gardeners, this orchid 'Mine Gold' is an endless source of good fortune. Don't you need to "mine gold" to reap "gold dust" and "baskets of gold?"
Why not use some of your "gold dust" to mint Asteriscus maritimus, 'Compact Gold Coin', shown at left, a low-growing tender perennial (that's an annual for most of us, folks)? This drought- and salt-tolerant groundcover is also known as Mediterranean Beach Daisy. It is evergreen in USDA zones 9 to 12 and blooms in every month, providing you with constant gold coins! GARDENING WITH SILVER
With the commodities market as volatile as it is, silver is often considered a less expensive alternative to gold, although this 'Silver Dollar' Hellebore, also pictured in the thumbnail photo, retails for over $100 USD if you can even find a source. (None is listed in PlantFiles, although I do know where you can obtain Helleborus 'Silvertooth.')
Other types of silver dollars are more readily available to the ordinary gardener. "silver dollar" Eucalyptus, or florist's Eucalyptus, can make anybody feel like he or she has a toehold in the burgeoning worldwide commodities market, yet this silver dollar is available at any florist as cut foliage, or in an ordinary garden center in many parts of the country.
This 'Silver Peso' tree, Sophora secundiflora, a cultivar of Texas mountain laurel, is quite similar to other warm zone 'Silver Dollar' plants except it has these lovely amethyst blooms, a striking dividend for a southwest gardener. (Warning: please use caution when investing in foreign currencies.)
Even plants that don't look at all silver to me are given the name "silver dollar," such as this Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum peruvianum). A very attractive small leaved plant, this fern can only be grown in tropical zones or indoors. Joyce Gladden discusses the money plant, Lunaria annua, in her article, Does Money Grow on Trees? Lunaria annua's seed pods dry to appear like "silver dollars," and the purple and white blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies. It is listed as perennial from zones 4-8.
D I V E R S I F Y I N G
Should you opt to invest in jewels instead of precious metals, please consider white diamonds, red rubies, and blue sapphires in addition to the standard gardener's emerald greens. Take the lovely 'Blue Sapphire' Primula vulgaris, for instance. A cultivar of the common primrose, it is nearly evergreen with bright blue fragrant double flowers arising in mid-spring to summer.
Or the charming miniature African violet 'Optimara Little Diamond', should your tastes run to diamonds, traditionally the most valuable gemstone out there. (In fact, rubies, sapphires and emeralds are rarer than diamonds, although they are not as hard.) How about investing in this stunning Paphiopedilum Ruby Leopard?
For the traditionalists among us who feel safer sticking with emerald green, try Hosta 'Emerald Tiara', pictured to the right. Like all Hostas, it is extremely hardy. Or you could consider Hosta cultivars 'Emerald Gem', 'Emeralds and Diamonds', or even 'Easy Money'.
Investment Gardening is thirsty work, so have your
Or you can follow Jill M. Nicolaus' recipe for mint juleps in this article. Either way with your new knowledge, you won't spend a mint!
As always, I am indebted to the company of other investment gardeners, as my conservative outlay is extremely limited to-date. (I do have a tiny new seedling of 'basket of gold;' with any luck it will become BASKETS OF GOLD!)
Photo credits go, with gratitude, to alizajaafar, angihansen, av_ocd_girl, bonitin, CaptMicha, critterologist, dave, DaylilySLP, Happenstance, hczone6, IslandJim, Kell, LilyLover_UT, Mctavish, mgarr, palmbob, and PotEmUp. Thank you.