Crocosmias are a must for the late summer and autumn garden. With more than 400 cultivars of this South African plant, you’ll get different varieties flowering any time between early summer and autumn in Scotland

There’s a wonderful choice of colours: yellows, pinks, oranges, bronzes and reds. Yellows include lemon-yellow ‘Citronella’, then there’s deep orange ‘Zeal Giant’, and the brilliant flame-red ‘Lucifer’. And I can’t forget the ever-popular apricot-yellow ‘Solfatare’. 
Like iris, gladioli, crocus, chasmanthe and freesia, crocosmias are members of the Iridaceae, iris, family. All these irises grow from bulbs, corms or rhizomes, and with crocosmia, it’s corms. Each year a new corm develops above an existing corm but old crocosmia corms do not wither away so a string of corms can build up. These older corms act as additional storage organs allowing plants to bulk up. Any that break off produce their own growing shoot which explains why some crocosmia can spread and, in a few cases, become invasive.

I always value crocosmias later in the season when there are fewer attractive flowers for my borders. That’s why Crocosmia × crocosmiiflora  ‘Emily MacKenzie’ is such a winner, standing to its full 85cm when in flower. Mid-green, blade-like leaves act as a fine backdrop to elegantly arching stems bearing large vivid orange tubular flowers with crimson markings at the centre.

‘Peach Sunrise’ is another good candidate for this time of year in my book. It bears yellow-throated, star-shaped, apricot-orange flowers on arching, branched stems.
I’m thankful for the rain we’ve been having – it came in time to save the crocosmia flowers. The poor plants, such sorry specimens during the drought, have recovered and show every sign of doing their thing. It reinforces the fact that crocosmias hate dry conditions. Soil must be moist, but very free-draining – easier said than done in “these days” of climate change.

Although crocosmias really come into their own from August onwards, there are plenty of fine cultivars flowering from early summer. If you have space for a crocosmia that grows to 90-120cm, I know you’ll love seeing ‘Vulcan’s’ bright red flowers against a backdrop of narrow pleated leaves as they emerge in early summer.

Moving on a few weeks, with space, you’d love the gorgeous sprays of soft small flowers of the recently introduced ‘Lemon Spray’. A real beauty that blends superbly with blues in a border. But if your border can’t accommodate larger crocosmias, ‘Harlequin’, only reaching 90cm, is a treat. You couldn’t fail to enjoy its long sprays of small, multi-coloured yellow tubular flowers that open from vermilion buds, creating a delicate palette of colours.  


Plant of the week

Runner Bean ‘Celebration’ has pretty, coral pink flowers: a change from the usual scarlet or white. It prolifically produces pods that are delicious when picked and eaten young. If the crop is too large to be eaten at the tender stage, leave some pods to develop beans for eating fresh or frozen. Always cook runner bean beans well (raw can cause stomach upsets) but the flowers can be added to salads.