Not to be outdone by these is Crocosmia 'Lucifer', with its spiky, sword-shaped leaves and vaguely tropical scarlet flowers. The crocosmia both grounds and exalts the Garish Garden. The leaves form a steady march of upright soldiers that offer structure and steadfastness throughout the seasons. Early summer brings delicate, red-tinged, feather-like buds waving on tall, stiffly arching stems. Fireworks arrive in mid-July, with the buds exploding into flaming red, trumpet-shaped flowers that float above the foliage and tease onlookers (including hoverflies, butterflies and hummingbirds) to come closer. Finally, if your growing season is long enough (it's not, here) long sprays of yellowish, chestnut-shaped seed heads appear in fall, along the flowering spine, which eventually open to reveal complex, wine-colored seeds.
A member of the Iridaceae family that is native to eastern South Africa, crocosmia (common name, montbretia) can’t help but be flashy, as its siblings include gladioli, lilies, irises and crocuses. C. ‘Lucifer’ is a hybrid developed by the late, great English plantsman, Alan Bloom, at his Bressingham Nurseries in the late 1960s. It is a clump-forming plant that propagates by corms and seeds. New England’s climate limits its spread each year, but in places like California's Pacific Coast and England, it has outworn its welcome by spreading like a weed.
To allow C. ‘Lucifer’ its greatest glory (and height, up to four feet tall), plant it in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny location. Let it show off in broad swathes, or ribbons that allow it to wend its way among (and lord its way over) its neighbors. If you have less space, plant it in a clump of at least a dozen corms for greatest visual impact. Folks in warmer climes will want to cut off the seed heads each fall (they’re terrific in dried flower arrangements) to check its spread. Other maintenance includes springtime division every three to four years to discard the old corms and replant the new, though again, this may depend on where you live. After seven years of growing them without crowding, Jill divided hers for the first time last year, in order to donate some to the Mastway School Garden in Lee.
Dabble and play with your garden’s palette. Let a section of your garden give way to bold colors, textures and shapes. You may be inspired to tap into that “little bit of devil” inside you, and let C ‘Lucifer” out. ~ Lisa Peters O’Brien