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Whidbey Island Landscapes

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Crocosmia – do you have to go so soon?

The last of the crocosmia flowers in my garden will be just a memory by the end of this week.  I grant them a well-earned rest after starting their show in mid summer and continuing the run all through late summer and into fall.

Crocosmia or Montbretia are native to South Africa. There are hundreds of beautiful, easy to grow cultivars on the market.  (See   Crocosmia do best in fertile, moisture retentive, well-drained soil.  They will grow and flower in sun or part sun, but excessive shade may cause them to sprawl. Some are clump-forming and others tend to spread about.   There is some disagreement over whether to cut back the brown foliage in late fall (seems to me this is a good idea to prevent disease) or whether to allow the dead foliage to protect the corms over the winter.  The larger flowered cultivars can be a bit tender, so maybe this is a good alternative for them or you could give them a light mulch instead.  Buy the corms in spring or as plants later towards the summer.

Here are the cultivars I currently grown in my garden.  I think I’ll look for ‘Emily McKenzie’ next spring . . . .

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘George Davison’ is a vigorous clumper with beautiful red and orange buds and first to flower.

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'George Davison'


New this year, from a friend  is C. crocosmiiflora ‘Colton Fishacre.’  Look at that bronze foliage.

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Colton Fishacre'

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Colton Fishacre'


Crocosmia ‘Star of the East” is a  spreader, that usually has these fantastic dark orange seed pods when the flowers are finished.

Crocosmia 'Star of the East'

Crocosmia 'Star of the East' seedpods


Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora ‘Severen Seas’ with brilliant reddish-orange tubular flowers and golden throats and a favorite among the hummingbirds was a choice gift from a friend.

Crocosmia 'Severen Seas'





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Bluebells for Sue

A friend of mine recently related that after clearing an area of blackberry and other weeds, she was delighted to find bulbs that someone had planted long ago.  I was so taken by this story that I’m planning to order bluebells to plant this fall under some trees in that new bed along our little dirt road.  I’m imagining that at least half of you reading this will recoil in horror and some of you may feel compelled to write or call and ask if I’m in my right mind.

It’s true – bluebells are great naturalizers OR invasive weeds, depending on your situation and point of view.  Though not on the state’s weed list (, bluebells quickly multiply by bulb offset as well as self sow, and often inspire the same kind of curses as garden rabbits.  After the flowers have faded, the strappy  foliage that lingers can crowd out less assertive plants and just look untidy.  The bulbs establish deep in the soil, so can be hard to remove.  If you cut back everything after bloom, you can decrease the vigor with which bluebells spread.

Bluebells make up for all of this by being, well, blue.  And for being deer and rabbit resistant, tolerating a fair amount of shade, being very hardy (zones 4-9) and persisting without care in our summer dry soils (as long as they get winter moisture, but not saturated).  Spanish bluebells, in particular will also do well in full sun.   Spanish bluebells / Hyacinthoides hispanica are taller, 10-14” with erect racemes of usually blue, but also white and pink unscented bells.  English bluebells / Hyacinthoides non-scripta, abundant in English oak and beech woodlands are shorter with nodding racemes of blue flowers.  The two species do cross and there is some concern in England that this may cause the demise of the native English bluebell.

Some sources indicate that the English bluebell is fragrant, so that’s what I’ll plant this fall.  I like to think that someday, after I, my house and maybe even most of the garden is gone, that the bluebells will still delight and surprise some passerby.

Spanish bluebells / Hyacinthoides hispanica

Haze of bluebells in an old Greenbank orchard

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Daffodils – a little bit of sunshine

Going to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival this year? While tulips are jelly bean candy to the deer around here, daffodils have been deer, squirrel and vole resistant so far.

Two of my favorites growing, naturalizing (spreading) and blooming in the field through the wind, rain and SNOW at Smallwater Farm are: Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ with creamy white petals and a broad yellow, ruffled cup that starts out sunny yellow and fades to pale yellow

and ‘Mount Hood’ which also has creamy white petals but a longer, more trumpet like cup which starts yellow and then fades.

My next purchase will be Narcissus ‘Ambergate’ with a red cup that fades to orange which will look stunning with the flaming orange stems of my twiggy dogwood, Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ or maybe I’ll use the cultivar ‘Actaea’ which is a little more demure with creamy petals and tiny red-rimmed cup.  Once my trees mature, I’ll get Narcissus ‘Thalia’ which opens pale white, is fragrant and can stand dry shade.

There’s nothing like looking at the real thing when you’re plant shopping, but here’s a great rainy day substitute:


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  • April 15, 2011 @ 9:57 am
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  • Deborah