In late summer it is the turn of the hotter colours to take pride of place in the garden. The pinks and purples of earlier months are now starting to look tired and dusty. Orange, yellow and red herald the turning point in the garden, a last hurrah! Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is a garden hybrid of C. aurea and C. pottsii, first bred in 1880 in France by Victor Lemoine. This hybrid between two species of this lovely South African genus, a cross aimed at producing a select plant with adequate hardiness, is known to gardeners as “Montbretia.”
The sword-like leaves and brilliant wands of fiery scarlet, red, orange, and yellow flowers add dramatic structure to the garden and look particularly good grown alongside grasses and other tall flowers like Kniphofia and Rudbeckia or Helenium.
Crocosmia “Lucifer” (below) has sprays of vivid red flowers on stems to 1.2m in height. Others are lower growing, but may need support as they can flop around.
Crocosmia “Emily McKenzie” is a particularly delightful plant with arching spikes of yellowish-orange-red freesia like flowers.
Those left to their own devices tend to dwindle into congested, grassy clumps, but if you dig up a clump you will see that the corms build up on top of each other. Twist off the topmost corm which is the one taking in the energy from this year’s foliage and replant these in a shallow trench a few inches apart and a few inches deep. In spring add achilleas and grasses to mix with them and create a naturalistic planting style. Dispose of the old corms carefully. Normal compost heaps will not be hot enough to break them down so you might find a garden full of them in the future!
Here in Cornwall, during the months of August and September, the vigorous Montbretia can be found growing wild in clumps in the Cornish hedges. Escapees find themselves in my garden!