Plant of the Month August 2016

Crocosmia is a small genus in the family iridaceae and native to the grasslands of South and Eastern Africa. The name derives from the Greek krokos meaning saffron and osme meaning odour. The drying leaves are said to smell of saffron.

These flowering plants grow from underground corms that form a column with the youngest small corms at the top. New plants are best obtained by pulling the columns apart and replanting the oldest largest corms at least 3 inches deep to protect from frost.

The most widely grown cultivar is Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ bred in the 1960s by Alan Bloom of Bressingham Nursery in Norfolk.

The handsome sword shaped leaves add an architectural impact to a border, but the star of the plant is the brilliant red flowers born on stems a metre high above the leaves. These flowers are arranged along an arched spike opening in succession from the base to tip. Many gardeners cut the stems when the flowers are over but at Reveley in the borders the stems are left standing as the glossy seeds are beautiful in their own right.

The origins of the name ‘Lucifer’ are many from religious to mythical legend.

Many agree that he was a morning star of brilliant shining light but fell from favour due to his boastfulness. The star gods were offended and cast him down. He possibly having failed in heaven transferred to rule the underworld; many think him synonymous with Saturn. The first fully illustrated print of Lucifer depicted in Dante’s Inferno presents a terrible punishment. I would suggest wikipedia if you wish to get completely confused and spoilt for choice!

My choice would be from Greek mythology. Eos, the goddess of dawn gave birth to the morning star naming him Phosphorus. (Though I always thought the bright morning star was Venus). Phosphorus of course burns with a most brilliant flame.

Whatever your beliefs Crocosmia Lucifer is a stunning plant.

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