Plants - Perennials

The classic grace of crocosmia

By
Carol Hall

A once-forgotten perennial from the Victorian era is making a comeback in modern gardens


What was that name again?
The plants now commonly known as crocosmias (crow-COZ-me-ahz) have been cultivated for more than 200 years. Strangely, they’ve never had an easily remembered, universally accepted common name—at least in English. Crocosmias have been bounced in and out of so many genera and species that no common name except montbretia (mont-BREE-shah) has stuck for long. (Apparently, Crocosmia paniculata was nicknamed "Aunt Eliza" back when its genus name was Antholyza, but few people seem to know it as such any more.)

If “montbretia” itself sounds suspiciously like a genus name, it’s because it once was—as were Curtonus and Tritonia for various ancestors of today’s hybrids.

The good news is that modern hybrids, being complex crosses of closely related genera with hopelessly confused names, have finally been all lumped together into one genus: Crocosmia. This includes all crocosmia-related species, some of which are still worth growing for their own merits. To make things even easier (and hopefully permanent), "crocosmia" is now also the preferred common name. So commit it to memory; chances are
you’ll be referring to these beautiful, easy-care plants often from now on.

 

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