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Montbretia - The Beautiful Weed

By Rick Gush, Urban Farm Contributor

Friday, July 29, 2011

blooming montbretia

Photo by Rick Gush

This blooming montbretia brightens up my every corner in my garden. Don't take weeds for granted.

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 are bunched up in the corners and really adding 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 were too many small bulbs to get them 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, so you can just throw a handful of the bulbs in any spots you want the plants to grow. There’s no need for any of the careful positioning that is usually involved with bulbs like 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, and yellow or blue flowers are particularly good companions.

Montbretia are also 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 some small farmer who augments 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.

Read more of Digging Italy »

Give us your opinion on Montbretia - The Beautiful Weed.
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At least two type of weeds (before I realized they are) I appreciate in my backyard are Spiderwort & Evening Primrose. Of course my granddaughter thinks I have a yardful of beautiful flowers when dandelions come sprouting out. She couldn't pick enough of them. I think I would like to add Montbretia to the list.
Dante, Hyde Park, MA
Posted: 3/31/2014 8:50:55 AM
Rick, Montbretia, looks more like a flower than a weed. Of course the Canadian Thistle has a beautiful flower but is quite the noxious weed and will take over your land if you let it. Milkweed is a plant that butterflies need for their metamorphous to take place but we abhorred them on the farm and did our best to irradiate them. I've acquired a little more tolerance in my mature years for plants that I thought were bad. They still need to be under control. The days of my backyard wild life habitat have long since been over. Although, I've been locked into a backyard project that has left the backyard a little shaggy. It was probably an OK thing as the heat and lack of rain was extreme here in the midwest which probably allowed the yard to tolerate it a little better.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 7/31/2011 6:09:38 AM

About the Blogger

Rick Gush
Rick Gush has long been a staunch organic gardener. While a student at the University of California at Davis he worked at local tomato and sugar beet farms and continued in the agricultural and horticultural industries for many years. A career move in the 1990s led him to design computer games, but no matter how much of a techie he’s become, gardening and farming remain his principal passions.

In 2000, Rick moved to Italy, where he writes to you about his cliff garden and other experiences in Italian urban agriculture.

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