When they are roadside weeds, these bulbs are often referred to as montbretia. Treading on thin ice, I admit that we have orange-red ones growing amongst agapanthus on our roadside. At least it is better than the dreaded bristle grass that is the scourge in our area. “Lucifer” is a superior form, a hybrid with bigger flowers and stronger colour, making it popular as a garden plant. It is strong growing and both the pleated leaves and the flower spikes can get above waist height and it is almost indestructible. I like to keep it confined but it makes an attractive display beneath the apple trees and also alongside an equally strong growing yellow anigozanthus (kangaroo paw) which we have at the front of the rockery.
The bulbs are not unlike gladiolus corms and form chains below ground. It is the ability to grow when the chains are separated that makes these both easy and verging on weedy in some situations. We have a much larger flowered golden orange form which may be “Star of the East”. I say we have it, but we are waiting to see if indeed it is still here because it has been nowhere near as vigorous as “Lucifer” and each year we worry we have lost it.
Crocosmias are a small group of South African bulbs belonging to the iridaceae family. They are winter dormant, but their one drawback as a garden plant is that it takes a long time for the foliage to die down and they can be unattractive in autumn. That said, they are such toughies that I often trim the foliage off early to tidy them up.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.