Crocosmia – Stars of the Late Summer Garden by Martin Blow
Crocosmia are better known as “Montbretia” in Britain and have often had a bad name as invasive plants. However, there are lots of choice varieties that are less spreading and worthier of their other common name, “Falling Stars”, after their cascade of brilliant, fiery, starry flowers.
These plants come from Africa and were previously thought to be winter tender needing to be dug up in late autumn and laid out to dry so that the corms could be stored indoors in winter. This is still good practice if your soil is waterlogged in winter and it also serves to reduce the spread of the plants as well. I leave the corms in the soil over winter as my garden isn’t very wet or cold.
The plants like a moisture retentive soil in summer and this will give bigger and more flowers.
By choosing different varieties you can have flowers from July to early October and plants from 1ft / 30cm to 4ft / 120cm tall.
Perhaps the most popular, tallest and earliest to flower is the orange-red “Lucifer” with his pleated leaves and long cascades of flowers. He will start flowering in July through to the end of August.
Other tall varieties flowering in July and August are “Rowallene Yellow” and “Rowallene Orange”, these two have the largest heads of flowers and are around 3ft / 90cm tall.
Medium in height is the curiously coloured “Culzean Pink” – not a true pink but with a definite pinkish glow to the warm orange flowers.
There are also short varieties for the front of the border like the pinkish orange “Limpopo”, deep yellow “Honey Angels” and “Solfatare” (which also has bronze leaves). These grow to about 1ft / 30cm, and their bold colours are the highlight lining my paths and patio in August and September.
For a softer effect, there are some lovely pale lemon flowered varieties. All are very alike, you might find “Citronella”, “Sulpherea” or “Morning Light”, there’s not much to choose between them. These are 1ft 6in / 45cm tall and flower in late August perhaps through to early October.
I plant Crocosmia corms in spring about 3-5in / 7-12cm deep and about 6in / 15cm apart although it isn’t crucial to be exact in this. I plant pot-grown specimens at any time other than winter, although I would only plant the more tender types in late spring.
Once the shoots show through in spring keep the plants on the moist side. If a late, hard frost is forecast after the shoots are showing, I cover with garden fleece or a mulch, although established clumps will recover quickly from any frost burn. In cold areas, you can leave the old leaves on the plant in winter to provide some protection and choose a mild spell in late winter to cut them off before growth starts. Although the seed heads look attractive on the plant, cut them off before the seeds fall as seedlings might be inferior.
These bright plants are easy to grow and invaluable for brightening up the garden in late summer. Keep an eye out for Crocosmia at plant fairs in late summer and catch a falling star for your garden.
Janet & I organise Plant Hunters’ Fairs, specialist plant fairs at wonderful locations. Please see www.planthuntersfairs.co.uk for a full list of all our 2021 plant fairs. (PLEASE CHECK WEBSITE FOR TICKETING INFO AND ALL THE LATEST UPDATES BEFORE TRAVELLING). Plant Fair Dates For Your Diary 2021: 1620’s House and Garden, Nr Coalville, LE67 2FW on Sunday 1st August, entry to Garden & Plant Fair £1 (ticket required). Southwell Minster, Notts, NG25 0HD on Sunday 8th August, tickets TBC. Middleton Hall, Nr Tamworth, B78 2AE on Saturday 21st August, entry to Gardens & Plant Fair only £3 (ticket required). Weston Park, Shifnal, TF11 8LE on Sunday 12th September, tickets TBC.