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Crocosmias originate from South Africa but most are hardy in this country and give invaluable colour from July until October. They now come in many shades of yellows orange and red in varying heights. They like full sun and a humus rich soil so if you wish to grow them and you have a dry soil the addition of some organic matter would be beneficial. Crocosmia can be bought as a ready growing plant or as dried corms which can be planted out in the garden or in pots in spring. They need little attention except to be divided if clumps become overcrowded. In autumn after flowering when the leaves have started to turn yellow cut them away at the base of the plant.   They are members of the iris family and all today’s cultivars are bred from four closely related genera – crocosmia, antholyza, tritonia and montbretia. This diversity of types has produced a wide ranch of hybrids. The original montbretia was bred by the French plant breeder Lemoine best known for his lilacs and peonies. From 1880 onwards it filled Victorian gardens. From it were bred short grassy leaved forms. Shortly after the Second World War a new South African species Masoniorum began to be grown in British gardens. It was thought to be susceptible to frost but when it survived the 1963 winter it was crossed with Antholyza paniculata and produced a sturdy plant that flowered in July and introduced to British gardens.  Lucifer is one of the tallest at about a meter with sword shaped leaves and bright red flowers which look good in a hot garden with plants such as dahlias. Emily McKenzie is slightly smaller than Lucifer with very exotic orange flowers with crimson base, long lasting when cut for a vase. Masoniorum is another tall variety with brilliant orange – red flowers flowering from midsummer. For a plant with fabulous apricot flowers try Gerbe D Or which also has dusky olive brown leaves. A less tall good yellow variety is George Davidson growing to about 60cm. Guy Young

(Don’t forget plants nurtured by Guy will be on sale outside the Manor House!)

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