Tag Archives: montbretia

Summer flowers – tigridias and crocosmias

I started by thinking I would do a comparison of tigridias. And then crocosmias. It was too hot to be out in the garden and I couldn’t go down to the shaded areas of the stream in the park to clear weeds on the banks and free up the water from some of the choking weeds on account of having stuffed my dodgy wrist doing this heavy work the day before.

But really, it is that I like making flower boards. If I had my life again, maybe I would consider textile design as a career. I could do lovely floral confections, taking inspiration from flowers from my garden.

I have spent some time separating the tigridias by colour into separate blocks in two different garden borders. There are many more colours out there but I am not so keen as to want to collect them all. A fair number of them seem to be leaning towards brown hues. This is probably what happens when the pinks cross with the yellows. I am okay with white, all the hues of palest pink through to deepest pink, pure red and bright yellow.

What I would like is forms of the yellow and the red without spots – or freckles as they are often called. It appears that the dominant freckled forms can throw the occasional seedling that lacks them entirely. I have separated off the pure white and mid to dark pinks that hatched sans freckles and last year I found a single bulb with palest pink, freckle-free status. It hasn’t yet flowered this year so I couldn’t include it and, to be honest, it is a bit insipid. But it adds a link to the chain. Over time, I would prefer to mass the freckle-free ones and just add some spotties for variation. I do not know why we have never had a red or a yellow without the spots, but I will continue to watch.

Commonly referred to as montbretia, the weedy crocosmia growing wild all round North Taranaki roadsides

And crocosmias. They turned out to be more interesting than I thought, though we only have four different ones. Crocosmia are better known as montbretia when they are a roadside weed. Or maybe now a wildflower rather than a weed. A weed suggests they can be eliminated but this east African corm has made itself so much at home now that we literally have carpets of them on the road verges around here. We try and keep it out of our park but every time we get heavy rains that cause flooding, more wash down from upstream. They are at least pretty in flower.

Left to right: the roadside weed, a selected yellow form of same, ‘Severn Sunrise’ and ‘Lucifer’

There are about nine species of crocosmia in the wild. The common roadside one is C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora and it increases both from the bulb and from seed. The most common garden form is the larger-flowered, red ‘Lucifer’  which, it turns out, is a different line altogether, being  C. masoniorum × C. paniculata. I deadhead it because it sets prodigious amounts of seed and there is a limit to how many I want in the garden.

The pretty yellow form is simply a variation on the wild roadside one that Mark dug up and moved into the garden because it caught his eye. It has stayed true and also has the advantage of being either sterile or not setting much seed at all. I must take closer note this year, now that I have it well established in the new borders, and see if it is truly sterile. It is a worthwhile addition if it is.

Mark actually bought Crocosmia ‘Severn Sunrise’ from a well-known perennial nursery. All we can say is that it is either not true to the original or it performs much better in the UK, where it has been given an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS. It is so disappointing here that I plan to dig it up and dump it (but not on the roadside). Its foliage is not a good colour, the flowers are small and not displayed well AND it sets seed. I could make better selections from the wild ones along our frontage. I failed to find the species description for ‘Severn Sunrise’ but I wasn’t that interested, to be honest. Some plants just don’t justify their place even if they come with impeccable pedigrees.

The transient pleasure of a colour toned flower board to finish


Weeding the stream. Again. An ongoing task.

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

I misremembered. I felt sure there was a Wind in the Willows quote about messing about in the muddy waters of a stream but I was wrong. Of course they were messing about in a boat, not mud. When I went searching, there were many other charming quotes from the same book which are gently affirming in a world seemingly gone mad, but I found another escape this week.
img_3982I have been weeding the stream. Yes, hand weeding the stream. I see it is five years since I last got down and dirty in the water, although Mark and Lloyd do a certain amount of ongoing maintenance with the long handled rake. I find it easier to climb right in and scoop by hand or sometimes with a rake. It is very muddy and Mark laughs when I stagger back up from the park but I am way too vain (or self conscious, maybe) to immortalise this by taking a selfie of Muddy Me.

There are both eels and fish in the stream – small fish, mostly mud fish – and I find it deeply unnerving when something smooth and slippery brushes past my bare legs. I wouldn’t be quite so anxious were it not for Mark’s recent encounter with an eel. He was reaching into the water to pull out some blockage when an eel mistook his hand for something else and latched on. There was blood, quite a lot of blood and all of it was Mark’s. Eels are renowned for their backward facing teeth so it is not easy to dislodge them, though I think both the eel and Mark got such a fright that everything went flying. I console myself with the thought that eels are not known for aggressive attacks and it would be bad luck for one to follow up with me so soon after. Just in case, I wear both shoes and gloves as a precaution. I am hoping one will not attack my knees, calves or thighs.  Still, as I reviewed one cleaned area of the stream a few hours later, I was disquieted to see an eel gently swimming along the somewhat bare expanse. But it was a small one and I will not be intimidated.

Clockwise from top left: crocosmia, oxygen weed, wretched Cape Pond Weed, blanket weed and tradescantia

Clockwise from top left: crocosmia, oxygen weed, wretched Cape Pond Weed, blanket weed and tradescantia

But the weeds! We get up close and personal with the weeds that are carried down to us from properties further upstream but the major flood in 2015 has caused us a few more problems than before. Crocosmia, often referred to as montbretia but technically crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, have pretty summer flowers but the huge flood carried the corms far and wide and we are now working on restricting its spread. There is simply too much of it for us to be able to eradicate it and we would get reinfested during the next flood event.

Eradication, however, is the aim with the dreaded Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis). Mark has spent two decades battling this on our properties but still we get new outbreaks washed down to us. The problem is that every piece that is broken off is capable of growing and it is truly rampant once established. Both the tradescantia and the crocosmia grow alongside the water, rather than in it.

The goal is also to eradicate the oxygen weed and the Cape Pond Weed (Aponogetum distachyum). Mark has succeeded once in eradicating oxygen weed so he was most disappointed when he saw a larger form of it getting established on our place. His theory is that it comes from people emptying their little aquariums into fresh water ways, presumably because they do not wish to euthanise their goldfish and can’t find anyone to give them too. Don’t. Please don’t ever do this. Not only do we not need or want free range goldfish in our waterways, the oxygen weed becomes a choking blanket in slow moving fresh water. We have spent countless hours pulling it out but unless we get every bit, it will grow again. Ditto the Cape Pond Weed, about which I have written several times in the past.

What I call the blanket weed – a mass of very fine filaments – is here to stay but we try to keep it from getting too solid and impeding the flow of water. It is at least easy to rake out. Besides, the aquatic life needs some cover.

We are not perfect. Although we try and dead head our waterside irises and primulas, some of those may have washed downstream. I did at least go to a lot of effort to get rid of the noxious flag iris beside and in the water when we realised what an environmental hazard it is in this country.

In the meantime, there are worse ways to spend a pleasant, mild day than poddling about in the water. Our adult son is returning home from overseas next week and plans to stay for a few weeks. He spent many childhood hours playing with his mates in the ponds and the stream  – boogie boarding up and down and playing bike jumping games into the water. I am wondering at what stage I might suggest to him that it would be a huge help to his Aged Parents if he could turn his attention to scooping or raking the weeds from the deepest sections of the ponds which are beyond my reach. We shall see.

We have lowered the water level to enable major weed removal over the next week or two

We have lowered the water level to enable major weed removal over the next week or two

Plant Collector: Crocosmia “Lucifer”

Red Crocosmia 'Lucifer' with yellow anigozanthus

Red Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with yellow anigozanthus

When they are roadside weeds, these bulbs are often referred to as montbretia. Treading on thin ice, I admit that we have orange-red ones growing amongst agapanthus on our roadside. At least it is better than the dreaded bristle grass that is the scourge in our area. “Lucifer” is a superior form, a hybrid with bigger flowers and stronger colour, making it popular as a garden plant. It is strong growing and both the pleated leaves and the flower spikes can get above waist height and it is almost indestructible. I like to keep it confined but it makes an attractive display beneath the apple trees and also alongside an equally strong growing yellow anigozanthus (kangaroo paw) which we have at the front of the rockery.

The bulbs are not unlike gladiolus corms and form chains below ground. It is the ability to grow when the chains are separated that makes these both easy and verging on weedy in some situations. We have a much larger flowered golden orange form which may be “Star of the East”. I say we have it, but we are waiting to see if indeed it is still here because it has been nowhere near as vigorous as “Lucifer” and each year we worry we have lost it.

Crocosmias are a small group of South African bulbs belonging to the iridaceae family. They are winter dormant, but their one drawback as a garden plant is that it takes a long time for the foliage to die down and they can be unattractive in autumn. That said, they are such toughies that I often trim the foliage off early to tidy them up.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Tikorangi Notes; Friday 27 January, 2012

Crocosmia hybrids

Crocosmia hybrids

Latest posts: Friday 27 January, 2012
1) No amount of wishful thinking can alter the fact that we do not in fact have a Mediterranean climate here and romantic recreations of the glam of Med holidays are likely doomed to disaster. Abbie’s column.
2) A big, beautiful, fragrant rhododendron flowering in mid to late January? R. diaprepes in Plant Collector this week (but don’t expect to find this one offered for sale at your local plant store).
3) Grow it Yourself – broccoli. Personally I prefer not to. I have tried repeatedly over many years to learn to love broccoli and have met with dismal failure but others are more enthusiastic and it is fearfully good for you.
4) The latest instalment of our fortnightly garden diary as published first in the Weekend Gardener – dealing with prickly onehunga weed without resorting to lawn sprays and other garden matters.

The sad state of Camellia chyrsantha

The sad state of Camellia chyrsantha

Tikorangi Notes; Friday 27 January, 2012

It was only last year that I featured one of the best flowerings we have had on Camellia chyrsantha (it of the butter yellow flowers – bright New Zealand butter at that). It only took a decade or two to start performing well. Alas, it came off second best to the rapid descent of a massive old pear tree last week. The trouble is that it is a grafted plant and the trunk has been split. We are hoping it may still recover and live to bloom again. We can take the long view and wait another decade, if need be.

I have been photographing the different bulbs flowering this month. We were worried we had lost the yellow-orange form of crocosmia but it has leapt into flower and is remarkably showy with very large blooms. The red form (the one above is a hybrid called Lucifer) is such a strong grower that the chances of losing it are negligible, which means we take it completely for granted. Indeed, red crocosmia is a widespread roadside flower regarded as an invasive weed and known as montbretia in our area. The pink vallota is also looking particularly fetching. I would describe it more as peach than pink. There appears to be some debate about whether it is a vallota or a cyrtanthus so the pink vallota may in fact be the peach cyrtanthus. The auratum lilies are still fattening buds and not yet in full stride – just some tasters open so far.

The pink vallota. Or should that be the peach cyrtanthus?

The pink vallota. Or should that be the peach cyrtanthus?