Montbretia - The Beautiful Weed
By Rick Gush, Urban Farm Contributor
Friday, July 29, 2011
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.
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