Give the devil his due Crocosmia has never looked more appealing.
'Lucifer' is an aptly-named variety because its flowers are the hottest coloured of all - a searing paprika red. The fiery-red flowers with orange-yellow throats are held on gently arching stems.
A Bressingham Hybrid, first released in 1966 by Alan Bloom. 'Lucifer' is one of the most popular crocosmia. This stately tall variety produces dense clumps of upright sword-like foliage. In midsummer they make a good background for the profuse flowers. It is a wonderfully architectural, space-filling plant that complements bigger shrubs quite happily.
Crocosmia are related to the gladiola and are hardy plants that bloom from mid to late summer. They are quick and easy to grow and a no nonsense performer. With great vigour they produce imposing clumps in the late summer border.
Lucifer flowers for a long period, well into late summer. The spear like foliage adds a wonderful contrast to the more traditional leaf shapes in the garden.Plant in any moist well drained garden soil in full sun or part shade, although it will grow well in shade, it will bloom much better in a sunny position.
Although it is tall plant, growing to 120cm (4ft) it is self supporting and requires no need for staking. It has less vigorous growth than many other varieties, it grows true from seed and will self seed if allowed.
Crocosmia “Lucifer” was awarded the RHS Certificate of Preliminary Commendation in 1977 and in 1993 was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM)
Sow in late Winter to early Spring (Feb to May)
Sow at maximum 13 to 16°C (55 to 60°F), covering them with a thin layer of compost. The compost should be kept moist but not wet at all times. Germination between 30 to 90 days.
Prick out each seedling as it becomes large enough to handle, transplant into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out. Plant at least 15cm (5in) deep, in order to help support the plant and stop the foliage drooping over. Space 30cm (12in) apart.
Once established, crocosmia require only the minimum of care, but in very cold areas it's worth covering plants with a deep mulch of well-rotted compost or straw in winter.
Plants that aren't flowering freely can be divided in the spring. Split them into small clusters and replant in soil enriched with compost, and give a sprinkling of general fertiliser
City/Courtyard Gardens, Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds or Patio/Container Plants.
All 7 species of Crocosmia, are originally from South Africa where they grow in moist grasslands.
Crocosmia is a hybrid of garden origin, first produced in France in the 1880's. Introduced by Blooms of Bressingham, 'Lucifer', was selected from hybrids created by crossing C. x crocosmiiflora 'Jackanapes', with C. paniculata and C. masonorum.
In the early years of the 20th century, long before Bloom bred 'Lucifer’, three Norfolk-based breeders, George Davison, George Henley and Jack Fitt were already raising fine crocosmias. They were probably inspired by Victor Lemoine (1823-1911) of Nancy, in France, who raised 55, including 'Gerbe d’Or’ in 1885.
'Star of the East’ was bred by George Davison, the head gardener of Westwick Hall in Norfolk, in 1910. He raised 11 varieties and four are still admired and grown today. They include 'George Davison’, a July-flowering yellow, 'Lady Hamilton’ is a compact yellow-apricot and 'Prometheus’, a red-centred deep orange, is said to bear the largest flower of any crocosmia.
However 'Star of the East’ AGM is widely acknowledged as Davison’s finest because the wide orange-brown flowers, reminiscent of barley sugar in colour, are so substantial and so late to appear. The size of flower is inherited from the pollen parent, a German variety called 'Germania’. When 'Star of the East’ was first exhibited in London at Vincent Square in 1912, it was given a first-class certificate from the RHS.
After this success Davison concentrated on breeding apples, but donated his crocosmia collection to Sydney Morris of Earlham Hall near Norwich. Morris went on to raise a giant strain known as the Earlham Hybrids, working closely with breeders Fitt and Henley.
These days only country folk still call this lovely plant Montbretia, because the rest of us have been to stern re-education camps where we've learnt to use the word "Crocosmia" for these arching, fiery-coloured South African plants. The science boffins changed the name for, you know, science reasons.
The original name of Montbretia (sometimes spelled Montebretia) comes from the French botanist Monsieur de Montbret. The new term, Crocosmia is taken from the Greek 'krokos', meaning saffron, and 'osme' meaning smell, alluding to the saffron scent given off by the dried flowers when placed in water.
Blooms of Bressingham:
Blooms of Bressingham has been synonymous with the best herbaceous perennials for decades. In the 1960s Adrian and his brother Rob further developed the nursery business, started by their father in 1926, and in 1985 gave it the present brand name.
But even in the early days, his father Alan Bloom was bringing The Dell Garden, Diss, Norfolk, to the attention of an eager public. He appeared on television with shoulder-length hair and gold earring, the opposite of Percy Thrower, but a knowledgeable nurseryman who introduced cultivars that remain very popular today – Crocosmia Lucifer for example.
Both father and son became internationally-known for the perennial varieties they introduced worldwide but most notably in America. In this country they still hold the distinction of being the only father and son to hold the RHS Victoria Medal of Honour at the same time.
The National Collection:
Mark Fox is the holder of the NCCPG National Collection Holder of Crocosmia, in Caistor, Lincolnshire.
“I started collecting Crocosmia around 5 or 6 years ago, although I have had Lucifer in my garden ever since I moved here in 1988. My fascination started when I visited a local garden centre and saw some different ones as I was wandering around. I instantly fell in love with a couple of them and took them home........ from then on, it just snowballed and now I have around 250+ varieties!! Yes, before anyone says anything, my garden is very very full."
The Crocosmia Gardens website contains a dazzling array of photographs. Mark's love for Crocosmia is evident.
Click here to visit The Crocosmia Gardens
|Packet Size||25 Seeds|
|Common Name||Montbretia, Coppertips, Falling Stars|
|Flowers||Searing paprika red.|
|Natural Flower Time||July to September|
|Height||60 to 120cm (24 to 48in)|
|Spread||30 to 60cm (12 to 24in)|
|Position||Full Sun to Partial Shade|
|Germination||30 to 90 days|