Cliff top drama – Fiery Montbretia

I saw many lovely places and sights on our holiday in North Cornwall last week, but one of the abiding images I have is of vast tracts of Montbretia marching across the landscape.  I have to say that they injected a bit of sunlight on some otherwise dull days.


Lighting up the view from Port Isaac car park: Montbretia stretches from the cliffs tops down to the bare rock face.

It is hard to believe that the plant was only introduced to Britain from South Africa something like 130 years ago. Montbretia or Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is a hybrid which was created to produce a select plant with adequate hardiness for our climes.


Montbretia / Hemp-agrimony combination seems to be typical of the area

Apparently it was sought after for the grand gardens of the time, but eventually lost its appeal. By that point though it had managed to escape to the other side of the garden boundaries.


Outside the fence – A bright mix of colourful weeds: montbretia, dock (seedheads), hawkbit and bindweed.

Along with ferns, it is one of the main plants that disguise/cover the plaited slate walls edging the winding, narrow cornish country roads at this time of year.

The orange, dusky pink and yellow combination is a common wayside sight :


Looking through an ensemble of Montbretia, Eupatorium and mixed grasses to Port Gaverne

Montbretia seems to love the conditions in the deeply incised valleys as much as the clifftops:


Montbretia in the valleys – this one leads down to Tintagel Castle

We visited Tintagel Island, with its wonderful ruined castle (English Heritage) and its links to Arthurian legend (initially in 12th century by the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth). The South West Coast Path around the Bossiney headland cuts though more swaths of Montbretia, as does the steep valley footpath down to Tintagel Castle.


View of Tintagel Island from the headland

Oh and I found another kind of maze, this time marked out in Montbretia:


A Montbretia maze ……


About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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10 Responses to Cliff top drama – Fiery Montbretia

  1. How utterly stunning! The maze theme continues …I am intrigued!

  2. Christina says:

    The maze is interesting. When we were on Cornwall two years ago in September it was the Montbreyia that I photographed a lot. We were in Fowey.

  3. Chloris says:

    Beautiful, but you can see why gardeners don’ t want it as it is so invasive. Luckily some of the new hybrids aren’ t so invasive. I love the Montbretia maze, what fun!

    • It is a very enthusiastic plant, but maybe it has its uses … I’ve just been looking at a vast, problematic and precipitous slope … this post makes me wonder whether wild crocosmia just might be a solution to the planting dilemma? (;

    • Yes, it is remarkably adaptable too, but it was cheering to see in Cornwall against grey skies. My main reservation about montbretia is it’s floppy habit. I do grow Emily Mckenzie, which is lovely and better behaved. It never looks like it is coming back, but then surprises me with its dark ringed flowers in September.

  4. The Montbretia is quite beautiful, but invasives sometimes are. Surpised to see the Joe Pye Weed growing there, it generally likes moist conditions.

    • I think that to a large extent the topography helps here. There are valleys everywhere and runoff all year round, so there is a fair amount of water. The RHS website says that Eupatorium cannabinum likes moist but well drained soil, so I guess Cornwall is ideal.

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