June 24, 2009

Crocosmia Combinations?

Gardeners often receive a passalong plant from another gardener. Gardeners in zones 6-9 may be given crocosmia. Most likely it will be the red 'Lucifer' that is so commonly grown. There are many other interesting colors of crocosmia in shades of yellow, gold, orange and red that I'd like to try in the future.

In my butterfly garden, there are two clumps of crocosmia. I planted orange crocosmia (which is looking more like the red this year) with orange coneflowers. My idea was to pair up the crocosmia bloom with the deep orange cone of the coneflowers between the blue-purple blooms of the vitex and the green and white foliage of miscanthus 'Cosmopolitan'. This crocosmia is so enveloped that it cannot be reached by the deer.

I also have a large clump of 'Lucifer' that was given to me by a friend. Right now, 'Lucifer' is standing quite alone at the top edge of the butterfly garden. The butterfly garden has to be deer resistant. So far, the deer have walked right past the crocosmia, so I'm ready to think about companions for him.

This is a hot, dry site that receives about eight hours of sun here in my zone 7 garden. It takes a tough plant to grow at the edge of the butterfly garden and meadow. Other plantings up there that are in progress include yarrow, verbena bonariensis and nepeta.

Crocosmia is loved by hummingbirds. Yesterday, I was weeding between the two clumps of crocosmia. A female hummingbird perched on the orange one, while a male hummingbird sipped from 'Lucifer'. I want to keep the hummingbirds and butterflies in mind when I give 'Lucifer' some companions.

I will need to dig up the crocosmia next spring as the corms grow right on top of each other, forcing the plant out of the ground. This is one drawback about this perennial and one reason why 'Lucifer' still has no close companions. I have to decide how much space to give 'Lucifer'. Should I have a huge, mass planting? Or, shall I divide it and place it in several strategic places?

There's a garden inspiration that I've seen in a photo of the summer garden (photo #4) on the Bressingham website. Crocosmia is planted with steel blue sea holly (erynigum) and helenium. I do believe deer will eat both the erynigum and helenium.

I have echinops 'Ritro' in my garden that would work for the blue. However, it is nowhere near blooming right now while the crocosmia is in full bloom. I could substitute rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' for the helenium, but the rabbits eat that. It isn't blooming, yet either. Timing is everything with companions!

So, gardening friends - if you grow crocosmia 'Lucifer' what companions are you using? Even if you don't have this crocosmia, do you have any combination ideas?

Story and photos by Freda Cameron; Location: home garden; June 2009
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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