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Introduction to Crocosmia

The genus Crocosmia is made up of seven species from southern Africa, and an eighth found only in Madagascar.
Crocosmia ambongensis from Madagascar is a wierd freakish stunted little tuft of unlikeliness, by all accounts, and not in cultivation. (I am paraphrasing!)

The remaining seven species are all from southern Africa and produce clumps of fresh green more or less pleated leaves from corms that divide freely and usually produce daughter corms on short stolons. New corms are produced each season on top of the old corms, and they eventually form distinctive columns of old corms.

Crocosmias have long been grown in gardens with forms available that will flower from late spring until autumn. They are all yellow, yellowish orange, orange or red and it is astonishing that they are so collectable. The species all hybridise freely, the hybrids are generally fertile. Seeds are freely produced and easily grown to flowering size.

The popularity of Crocosmia has come and gone again in waves of fashion, and with every wave, new cultivars are named and introduced. There are hundreds of them. They persist well in gardens untended, and the current wave of popularity has seen a large number of very old cultivars rediscovered and re-identified. It is perhaps a little too harsh to suggest that if they had been any good, they wouldn't have been lost in the first place!
Modern hybridists have also been at work, and some excellent new cultivars have been named (among a plant-slick of bland smothering mediocrity).
There is still a need for new cultivars. Hardiness is still a problem, particularly among the large flowered hybrids. It would be quite cheering to think that hybridists would address this problem before global warming made it irrelevant. There is still scope to improve the number of flowers on the flower scape and increase the flower density. Upward facing flowers are still quite rare, as are cultivars with broad tepals. Forms with highly branched flower scapes make a better show in the garden, but tall forms with unbranched scapes would have more potential as cut flowers.
We probably have enough scraggy little orange jobs already!
It would also be good to see new cultivars that shed their old leaves easily at the end of the season. Many of the current cultivars hang on to the old leaves until long after the new growth has started in spring. The fibrous old leaves do not pull off easily and fall all over the place, as well as falling short of being attractive.
Still some work to be done then.

I started collecting Crocosmias in the 1970's, when Alan Bloom's new seedlings were being introduced. 'Lucifer' was a startling novelty, and time has shown what a good plant it is. Many of my old plants are probably still growing in the gardens they have occupied en route to my current house. Over the last five years or so I have started to collect them a bit more seriously, but I try not to get too many new ones each year. There are a lot of very similar plants out there, and if I have too many new ones to get to know each year, then I get very confused.

I have tried to get photo's onto the pages, but there is often little relevant text to add.

Further Information:

'Crocosmia and Chasmanthe' by Peter Goldblatt, John Manning and Gary Dunlop published by Timber Press, 2004.

Trecanna Nursery An excellent commercial collection.

The African Garden David Fenwicks informative website. Well worth a visit.

Ballyrogan Nursery. The Grange, Ballyrogan, Newtownards, Co.Down, N.Ireland BT23 4SD. 2 x 1st class stamps for their extensive list.