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Heirloom bulb Crocosmia adds vibrant summer color

The old-fashioned crocosmia has numerous garden applications from the cottage, to the tropical and eve as a partner to white hydrangeas.
The old-fashioned crocosmia has numerous garden applications from the cottage, to the tropical and eve as a partner to white hydrangeas. TNS

The summer blooming bulb Crocosmia is native to South Africa.

The foliage is sword like with flowers borne on stems 15- to 24-inches long and bloom for a really long period of time. Typically, the flower stems branch and curve slightly, baring two rows of buds. You can tell they are in the Iris family and have resemblances to both the gladiola and the Iris domestica, also called blackberry lily.

The Crocosmia is cold hardy from zones 6-10 and is best planted in the spring before the weather gets flaming hot. Be bold and plant a dozen in your drift or sweep.

Its name comes from the Greek words “krokos” meaning saffron and “osme” meaning smell, referring to the saffron aroma the dried flowers give off when immersed in water. There are choices in reds, yellows and oranges and two-tones as well as actual species.

If you think you will have a devil of the time remembering this plant, keep that in mind and shop for the variety Lucifer known for its fiery red color. An old variety, Emily McKenzie, has orange flowers and a red throat. If you like bi-colored selections, look also for the orange and yellow Bressingham Beacon or the red and yellow Venus.

Most of my friends who grow Crocosmia think of it as a perennial, perfect for the cottage garden where it will be combined with daylilies or salvias. The yellow selections partner well with purple coneflowers and of course its relative the blackberry lily.

Crocosmias are also great as cut flowers used with grasses, zinnias or gingers. Condition them with warm 100-degree water before placing in the vase. Another oddity about this plant is that cut-flower marketers sell the Crocosmia not only as a cut flower but also sell it loaded with bright green seedpods that are very effective in the vase.

Follow Norman Winter at: @CGBGgardenguru

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