These Showstoppers Dazzle and Sway

crocosmias monbretias Lucifer

Ahh! Crocosmias. A stand of crocosmias in full bloom can stop cars. Bicyclists make U-turns, and pedestrians cross streets to get a closer look. Admirers drop their jaws and want to know, “What are those?”

Sometimes called montbretias, crocosmias (krō-KOZ-me-uh) recently finished their dazzling display as the graceful stars of my mid-summer garden. Their elegant architecture thrills me, and I eagerly anticipate the style they bring to the plant beds each year.

My garden hosts the appropriately named variety ‘Lucifer,’ brashly displaying the brightest, boldest scarlet red you can imagine.  Hints of yellow and orange brush the throats of the blooms. A member of the iris family, the plant’s three-to four-foot-tall sword-shaped leaves spring from a small bulb-like root called a corm.

That small corm produces a spectacular flower cluster held on thin, wiry stems up to five feet high. I’ve counted as many as 26 tubular flower buds lining both sides of a horizontal spine near the top of the stems. The buds gradually unfold into wide open star-shaped blooms from the bottom of the stem to tip of the cluster.

Can you picture two dozen dramatic ‘Lucifers’ in full bloom together.? Their blossoms form a vibrant red haze suspended over the garden. They animate their space as they sway with the breeze. Hummingbirds adore crocosmias; recently three of these petite birds flitted together through the crocosmia stand in the backyard bed.

Last year I bought corms of shorter ‘Prince of Orange.’ Despite its smaller size, ‘Prince of Orange’ shouted its debut this year, living up to its name with a display of hot flamed blooms. I can’t wait until they spread and produce clumps of these visual knockouts. Other crocosmia varieties come in a wide range of yellow, orange, and red.

Did I mention Bambi and friends don’t like the taste of crocosmias? Usually, deer consider the back garden a buffet of yummy delights, but I don’t have to protect these flowers. Big plus!

These jewels shimmer in my Lewes, Delaware garden with its sandy soil. In western Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, friend and gardener Dianna works with a heavier clay soil. For her, crocosmias have thrived and multiplied, spreading throughout her large beds of flowers, ornamental grasses, and shrubs. Stately tiers of blazing fiery red streaks pull my attention through her garden to reveal vignettes of texture and color. The tawny rust-colored plumes of Karl Foerster grasses serve as soothing backdrops, perfect foils for ‘Lucifer.’

The pandemic gave me a gift. It granted me time to spend all of spring and summer to become intimate with the garden again. I experience much pleasure getting up close and personal with plants––their foliage, flowers, structure, and movement. It’s a rediscovery of nature’s perfections and a welcomed distraction from the hell raging all around. Especially, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ excites this garden geek.

December 2020

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