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.

2 thoughts on “A Hardy Perennial”

  1. Must it be divided, or can it grow true to type from seed? Even if it makes viable seed, I would not expect many viable seed from such a hybrid, and eve if it makes a few, I would not expect them to be true to type. Because montbretia is such a weed, I do not give much thought to other species or hybrids.

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  2. It would have to be divided, I think. I haven’t tried sowing the seed, but I believe it might be viable. There are a couple of rogue stems at the front with similar but different flowers – either two wrong corms were included in the pot, or it has self seeded. Montbretia is such a headache. There were great clumps of it in the garden when I moved in, and I’m still digging them up. Much better are the tall and elegant Hellfire, and Paul’s Best Yellow, both of which stay in clumps and aren’t weedy at all. Mind you, that’s over here. Not sure what any of them wold do over there, where your climate might suit them better!

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