A Hardy Perennial

 

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Crocosmia x crocosmoides ‘Castle Ward Late’

 

I like plants with a story. With history. Plants that stand the test of time. And this is one of them.

Sometime before 1895, Max Leichtlin (he for whom Camassia leichtlinii and others are named) was hybridizing Crocosmia at Baden Baden. Crocosmia paniculata x Crocosmia aurea produced Crocosmia x crocosmoides seedlings (not to be confused with Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora, the much-maligned Montbretia).

Apparently only 5 of Leichtlin’s hybrids survive, and this is one of them, Crocosmia x crocosmoides ‘Castle Ward Late’. I believe that another one is ‘Vulcan’, a red-flowered hybrid introduced in 1897. If anyone knows the identity of the others, please do share.

‘Castle Ward Late’ is a soft burnt orange that makes a real statement in the autumn border. It has elegant, spidery flowers on tall, strong, dark stems with lovely pleated leaves. I haven’t had the measuring rod out, but this clump must be 40 inches tall. It’s been flowering for at least three weeks now, and should keep going until October.

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It’s a survivor in more ways than one. This summer has been one of record-shattering heatwaves, interspersed with deluges of biblical proportions. This ‘Castle Ward Late’ isn’t staked in any way and most of it is still perpendicular, unlike much of the border around it. Hopefully, I’ll get round to treating it better next year.

Which brings me to its naughty side. It’s robust. A good do’er. Slightly assertive. This clump was a rather skinny potful only two years ago. Looks to me like there will be a bit of digging out later this autumn, so there will be giveaways to any of my students who like the look of this historic treasure.

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