Photo by Rick Gush
At the moment, my favorite plant in my garden at the moment is a weed from South Africa called montbretia, or crocosmia. Sure, we are now enjoying our annual flood of squash, tomatoes, beans and cucumbers, but these bright orange-and-yellow flowers have bloomed in the corners and add a special sparkle to the garden.
Unlike many other weeds, montbretia are not difficult to permanently remove from an area. It may take three seasons until there are none whatsoever, but pulling them out is easy. There may be too many small bulbs to get them out in one sitting, but picking out the remnants the following spring, and then the one or two stubborn stalwarts the following year, is really easy.
Planting montbretia in new spots is equally as easy. The small clusters of underground bulbs are as easily buried as they are uprooted, you can just throw a handful of the bulbs in any spots from which you want the plant to grow. There’s no need for any of the careful positioning that is usually involved with bulbs, such as daffodils and tulips.
Montbretia are also great cut flowers. The sprays of two-tone tubular flowers continue to open the unopened buds further up the stems for a week after being put in a vase. The bright flowers mix well with just about anything else, with yellow or blue flowers making particularly good companions.
Montbretia are tolerant of most neglect. They don’t have to be watered often, if at all; if it rains, the clumps keep coming back bigger year after year. Here, in Rapallo, Italy, the foliage dies back in the fall, but the new leaves come out in early spring. The best conditions are those areas that allow the clumps to mature to a regal size. A big clump of montbretia 3 feet across and loaded with thousands of blooms is fairly spectacular.
I’m surprised I don’t see more montbretia at florists or in the bouquets sold in supermarkets. This might be a good plant for small farmers who augment their income with cut-flower sales.
Even in areas where it is considered a pest weed, such as in the Northwest and New Zealand and South Africa, I’d still keep it on the landscape list because it’s so attractive and easy-to-control.