crocosmias and montbretias

James Waddick
Tue, 30 Jul 2013 07:22:02 PDT
Dear Jim, Jane and all, 

	Crocosmias have been a learning process here.

	Years ago we bought bare corms of 'Lucifer', by far the most common Croc around and they failed in various spots in the garden and in various treatments. Then one year we bought a gallon pot full of growing bulbs and tried again. They flourished and bloom regularly in July. Humming birds love them.

	It then dawned on us that they might need to be actively growing plants to succeed here. Someone on PBS (Jane?) suggested that they needed to have the typical 'string' of growing corms. They tend to keep last year's corm although they tend not to resprout, but form a chain of older and older corms useful for food storage (perhaps). We bought a couple more potted actively growing Crocs and had similar success in various spots in the garden.

	We then found another way to get better garden success. We bought dry corms in fall as they are almost always available in variety. We'd plant these in gallon or larger parts and store in a cool garage with low light. Over winter they'd sprout and grow and be ready to plant out by spring. These have a MUCH better survival rate.

	Bottom line is that we have around 40 named clones of Crocs from a variety of sources including Far Reaches. Hardiness is highly variable, but much of this depends on getting well established before winter. Unfortunately some of our biggest 'trials' have coincided with our worst summer weather. In 2012 we planted about 20 potted growing Crocs in spring, then had a 10 month drought. Most of the newly planted Crocs went 'dormant (we hoped they weren't dead). Established plants took the heat and dry and bloomed OK. This year we planted another round of pre-growing cvs. Last years plants mostly came up, but at the first hint of dry weather they went dormant again very early. This year's new additions mostly are still alive and growing and some are blooming.

	It seems difficult for us to establish Crocs here in Zone 5/6, but once established they seem hardy enough and can take both our summer extremes and our recent milder winters (Still down to single digits F). We no longer direct plant dry single corms in the garden. These rarely succeed. 

	We have not tried 'Her Majesty' so can't comment on that one.

	Now the good news - the cvs that do well do great and bloom and multiply. We love the range of colors from pale yellow through all shades of orange (Tangerine, screaming orange, pastel shades, etc)  to a range of reds. There is also a wide size difference. Our current champion is 'R. W. Wallace'. This one has clear golden orange flowers that open flat and wide and are around 3 in across (although I have not taken out the ruler). I have also been impressed with 'Zeal Giant' and another large flowered yellow whose name escapes me right now.

	Plant size can vary quite a bit from under 2 feet to 4 feet plus. They take some work to get them established in my climate, but we have few summer blooming plants so they make a much needed addition when the garden is slow. 

	Although Crocs are often sold as dry corms, starting them early in pots and planting 'established' plants gives a much better start in the garden.  It is well worth the extra work and efforts.

			Best wishes.		Jim W. 

ps Isn't the generic name Montbretia dead and all of the previous named are now Crocs?

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