Celosia cristata ‘Kurume Corona’

No one wants to dine at my house right now, because you can hardly find the table. If distant memory serves, it’s made of wood. But that won’t be verified until I get the Johnny’s Selected Seed (www.johnnyseed.com) order out the door. So, in the interest of having company again, I’m wading through my seed orders. Hence this blog in the dead of winter.

Who wouldn’t want to think celosia right now? We’ll tackle perennials, shrubs, trees, etc all in good time. But why not warm up to a hot annual? And really, one of the plants that gave rise to plantswise.com was Celosia ‘Kurume Corona’. You need to know about this plant. Your boyfriend needs to know about this plant. So does your sister.

You don’t think you’re the cockscomb type, do you? Neither did I. Celosias seemed to edge dangerously in the doily direction. But any plant that looks like a brain and is painted school bus yellow emblazoned with vibrant magenta steaks is going to catch your eye in mid-January when you’re flipping through seed catalogs, am I right? The seed companies know when your defenses are down. They’re in cahoots with the postal service to stuff your mailbox with temptation.

So I added ‘Kurume Corona’ to my Territorial Seed (www.territorialseed.com) order, thinking that I’d fill in around the asparagus that surround the circular vegetable garden (anyone even remotely pondering installing a circular garden needs to speak with me — I’ll talk you down). I figured that, when visitors came unannounced (suggestion: don’t do it), the ‘Kurume Corona’ would serve as something to steer the conversation away from why my work shirtwaist is held together with safety pins where buttons once did the job and why the hem is dragging. When you look like a train wreck, outrageous plants are the best diversion tactic, I’ve found.

I started the seeds indoors in April, that’s my habit (I know, it’s late — but I hate leggy, sun-deprived, fresh air-challenged seedlings). Then I shuffled the seedlings in and out before danger of frost was over (I know, I know — isn’t that why God created coldframes?). While in “mother hen” mode, they go out in fair weather, they are hustled in (all 20 flats) at dusk. Actually, has anyone else been tempted to grow their seedlings in the back of the station wagon? Just wondering…

Confession time. Sometimes I didn’t hustle them in quickly enough (that’s why the station wagon came to mind). They took a few near hits with frost in their stride. Finally, I planted them out. And then forgot about them. I had other axes to grind.

Not much action from the celosia patch for the better part of the summer. But the asparagus was delicious and diverted my attention (that falls in the “other axes to grind” department). But ‘Kurume Corona’ showed incredible drought tolerance. I mean, last summer was the acid test. Everything else in the garden was gasping for water and going into the swoon state except the celosia. Standing straight and tall at about 30 inches, it’s a trooper. For the better part of the summer, it was a boring trooper, but a trooper nonetheless. No flowers until the end of summer. I had murder in my eyes, I admit, until finally these tiny little topknots began to form. Not the sort of flower that rushes to save face. Had it been any other flower, it would have been curtains. But celosias start their blossoms as buttons, basically. By late summer, they were ravishing. Everyone who visited was drool, drool, drool. I was the most popular dinner date in town. Mixed with the fennel that was bolting (don’t ask) and ornamental grass tassels, it was the life of the party. Whipped the bouquet out with a big “ta da!” when the appetizers were being served. Dynamite!

Apparently ‘Kurume Corona’ is part of a Kurume series. The rest of the family doesn’t give off the same vibes except perhaps ‘New Scarlet’ with burgundy leaves to fill in the midsummer blah blip. As for its performance as a dried flower, I don’t know (comment please!). I ended up cutting all my ‘Kurume Corona’ to bundle up in summer bouquets. And I see that, in addition to Territorial Seeds, Burpee (www.burpee.com) now also lists it. Two thumbs up.

How about it, anyone else equally enthusiastic? Or have you fallen for another celosia? Tell me.

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6 Responses to Celosia cristata ‘Kurume Corona’

  1. Mo'a says:

    My Mother-in-law, who sadly has not been with us for over 20 years, used to have cockscomb (until now I never knew it by it’s true and proper name) in her garden every year. I just loved their velvety look and feeling…they were ever so exotic to my Icelandic eyes. I have not seen them in gardens for many years now.
    OK!!! so now the Celosia ‘Kurume Corona’ is on my list for my new garden…I am easily influenced when it comes to plants :) I have, for years, been a white flower girl, I even had one garden in shades of white, however, lately I have been embracing color.

    • Tovah says:

      I’m fascinated that you were originally “into” white as a mono garden, Mo’a. Tell us about your experiences with it — because I found that white comes in such a vast array of forms (cream, bluish-white, yellowish white, etc) that nothing seemed to go together in my white bed. I ended up replanting that section into a conifer garden. Plus ‘Alba’ forms of flowers seemed to be weak. Any thoughts on that? I think you’re going to love ‘Kurume Corona’ — it’s an artist’s dream come true. Talk about many spins on one plant… —Tovah

      • Mo'a says:

        Oh, yes. I love the way white flowers glow at dusk. I also love leave textures and that was/is as important to me as blooms.
        I actually like the array of white…sort of white on white. Although, I am always after the pure blue white that glows.
        I am living in my ninth home, fifth garden, since I got married 40 years ago…so many times I did not live with the garden long enough to feel the pang of the short lived ‘Alba’ My garden was always harder to leave than my house.
        I must say however, my Mother always got pieces of my favorites, that lived a long and happy life in her garden…she has a green thumb that is not to be believed. Sadly at 87 her gardening life is at a minimum now.

        • Tovah says:

          You’re absolutely right about white flowers being luminous after dark, Mo’a…And I see from your blog that your home interior decor has a wonderful white theme with little discrete accents of color. Have you ever noticed that ‘Alba’ flowers have the most hauntingly alluring scents? I’m thinking of white heliotrope with its underlying hint of baby powder. Are you also homesick for spring?

  2. Naomi says:

    Celosia definitely gives you great bang for the buck, but I too lean toward the cockscomb varieties rather than the ones that bear a creepy resemblance to brains. I’ve been poring through my Johnny’ catalog, drooling over the luscious veggies. Now you’ve got me thinking flower gardens and imagining where I could put a grouping of little golden brains and another of fiery cockscombs. I like your idea of using them as a diversion tactic–keep visitor’s eyes riveted on the showy flowers instead of my patchy-at-best lawn!

    • Tovah says:

      So am I right in figuring that you want a no-brainer, Naomi? But seriously, that’s the point of this blog = to help fellow gardeners select plants that won’t monopolize the weekend. This celosia does its stunts on autopilot. Good point on diversion tactics — it’s not only my wardrobe that needs upstaging, I also want to wave attention away from the path to the compost pile. And Johnny’s is a great resource for New Englanders to purchase plants that perform in our (unique) climate.

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