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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