Tag Archives: Crocosmia Lucifer

Summer flowers – tigridias and crocosmias

I started by thinking I would do a comparison of tigridias. And then crocosmias. It was too hot to be out in the garden and I couldn’t go down to the shaded areas of the stream in the park to clear weeds on the banks and free up the water from some of the choking weeds on account of having stuffed my dodgy wrist doing this heavy work the day before.

But really, it is that I like making flower boards. If I had my life again, maybe I would consider textile design as a career. I could do lovely floral confections, taking inspiration from flowers from my garden.

I have spent some time separating the tigridias by colour into separate blocks in two different garden borders. There are many more colours out there but I am not so keen as to want to collect them all. A fair number of them seem to be leaning towards brown hues. This is probably what happens when the pinks cross with the yellows. I am okay with white, all the hues of palest pink through to deepest pink, pure red and bright yellow.

What I would like is forms of the yellow and the red without spots – or freckles as they are often called. It appears that the dominant freckled forms can throw the occasional seedling that lacks them entirely. I have separated off the pure white and mid to dark pinks that hatched sans freckles and last year I found a single bulb with palest pink, freckle-free status. It hasn’t yet flowered this year so I couldn’t include it and, to be honest, it is a bit insipid. But it adds a link to the chain. Over time, I would prefer to mass the freckle-free ones and just add some spotties for variation. I do not know why we have never had a red or a yellow without the spots, but I will continue to watch.

Commonly referred to as montbretia, the weedy crocosmia growing wild all round North Taranaki roadsides

And crocosmias. They turned out to be more interesting than I thought, though we only have four different ones. Crocosmia are better known as montbretia when they are a roadside weed. Or maybe now a wildflower rather than a weed. A weed suggests they can be eliminated but this east African corm has made itself so much at home now that we literally have carpets of them on the road verges around here. We try and keep it out of our park but every time we get heavy rains that cause flooding, more wash down from upstream. They are at least pretty in flower.

Left to right: the roadside weed, a selected yellow form of same, ‘Severn Sunrise’ and ‘Lucifer’

There are about nine species of crocosmia in the wild. The common roadside one is C. crocosmia x C. crocosmiiflora and it increases both from the bulb and from seed. The most common garden form is the larger-flowered, red ‘Lucifer’  which, it turns out, is a different line altogether, being  C. masoniorum × C. paniculata. I deadhead it because it sets prodigious amounts of seed and there is a limit to how many I want in the garden.

The pretty yellow form is simply a variation on the wild roadside one that Mark dug up and moved into the garden because it caught his eye. It has stayed true and also has the advantage of being either sterile or not setting much seed at all. I must take closer note this year, now that I have it well established in the new borders, and see if it is truly sterile. It is a worthwhile addition if it is.

Mark actually bought Crocosmia ‘Severn Sunrise’ from a well-known perennial nursery. All we can say is that it is either not true to the original or it performs much better in the UK, where it has been given an Award of Garden Merit from the RHS. It is so disappointing here that I plan to dig it up and dump it (but not on the roadside). Its foliage is not a good colour, the flowers are small and not displayed well AND it sets seed. I could make better selections from the wild ones along our frontage. I failed to find the species description for ‘Severn Sunrise’ but I wasn’t that interested, to be honest. Some plants just don’t justify their place even if they come with impeccable pedigrees.

The transient pleasure of a colour toned flower board to finish


Plant Collector: Crocosmia “Lucifer”

Red Crocosmia 'Lucifer' with yellow anigozanthus

Red Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ with yellow anigozanthus

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.