Look at this cute honeycomb nest. A small wonder of nature but not a welcome one. It is the nest of a paper wasp. I have lived my life blissfully unconcerned about these creatures. We have both the Australian and the Asian paper wasp in New Zealand, along with the more aggressive German and common wasp. Mark wages war every summer on the nests of the latter two.
Alas, a wasp from this nest that I hadn’t even noticed took exception to me cutting out some of the leafy tips of an over-large osmanthus. It stung me twice just below the eye and then buzzed me aggressively as I exited hastily. I didn’t even see it. I was more worried about getting to a mirror to work out whether it was a bee (in which case I would have needed to get the sting out) or a wasp. Mark went straight out and spotted the nest at eye level – he is observant, that man. They are quite hard to spot because there is not the busy coming and going that defines a common wasp nest. We looked on line and came to the conclusion that what he saw crawling over the nest was more likely an Australian than Asian paper wasp. Whichever, they are dead wasps now.
While unpleasant, two paper wasp stings do not appear to be as bad those from the larger common or German wasp. I kept ice cubes wrapped in cloth on them for an hour or more as required on the first day. The puffy swelling remained for another three days and the site remained tender to touch but not exactly painful, so it could have been much worse. At least I know what to look out for now.
We are past peak auratum lily season although there are still plenty in bloom as we enter late summer.
Here we have the curiosity of a fasciated lily, not to be confused with a fascinating lily unless you like freaks and novelties. It is an aberration in a plant, usually a seasonal deformity but not a lasting condition and it causes a flattening of the stem (basically it is two dimensional and ribbed) and a huge increase in the number of flowers but they are correspondingly smaller. The cause is unknown and it may stem from any number of things (including hormone spray damage but not in this situation) but presumably environmental because it does not appear to be a genetic issue in the plant. It is not likely to occur again in the same plant next year.
I picked the white stem because the weight of the flowers was too heavy for the stem to hold it up but we have another example in the lily border which stands very sturdily, showing off its freakish growth. The local paper used to publish stories every year with some breathlessly excited gardener showing off their ‘special’ plant with its unusual head of flowers and flat stem but it is not rare and fasciation occurs across a wide range of plants. It is not generally stable or lasting but broccoli, apparently, is a freak fasciation that was stabilised. Google it, if you want to know more.
The crocosmias are starting to pass over but I like to line them up and compare them. Going left to right, we start with the common roadside weed. It is usually called montbretia in this country and while pretty, it is a seriously invasive weed. It washes down our stream in every flood and it is all down our roadsides but we certainly never introduced it ourselves. It multiplies readily both from the bulbs and by seed. Botanically, it is C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora.
Second from the left is ‘Severn Sunrise’ and I am working to eradicate it from the garden. It appears to be just as invasive the common one and not much different in flower, habit or growth. I wonder if it is just a selection of the same cross. It may be more highly valued in countries where it is not such an invasive weed.
Third is red ‘Lucifer’ which is now listed as Crocosmia x curtonus (I see I previously found it as C. masoniorum × C. paniculata) so it has different parentage to the orange, weedy ones. It is by far the strongest growing one we have and certainly showy but also vigorous (read: the bulbs increase very rapidly) and it sets so much seed that I try and deadhead it to control it. I also need to thin out the bulbs which are getting a bit too determined to colonise and dominate the areas where they live.
Fourth along is one of my current favourite and the purest yellow with dainty blooms. It is just a chance seedling Mark picked up from the roadside so it will be the same cross as common montbretia (C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora) but we have not had an issue with it seeding down. The bulbs increase readily but without free seeding, it is not a problem to keep it restrained and it seems to have a longer flowering season.
Second from the right is my newest addition – larger flowered and a pretty yellow but richer in colour so more apricot than pure yellow without quite getting to orange. I swapped some of our yellow one with Cemetery Sue at the graveyard to get this one and it is likely to be a named form but neither of us know the name. She has not had an issue with it seeding around so I am hopeful for its future in our garden.
The last one is by far the showiest and I think it is probably ‘Star of the East’, judging from photographs. Although it may not be, because ‘Star of the East’ is just a selection from the same cross that gives us weedy montbretia and this bears no resemblance to that cross. It is genuinely spectacular but certainly not vigorous. We have had it in the rockery for several years where it limps on without increasing as I would like it to and it seems to be sterile. Conditions are hard in the rockery and I think I need to lift it and move it to a more hospitable location with richer soil. I say this every year but this season, I swear I will do it. It is worth the effort.
Crocosmia are wildflowers of the grasslands in southern and eastern Africa. There are currently nine different species and they should not all be judged by their wayward, roadside weed family member. They are also not as invasive in less benign climates than ours.