For a while, there’s been a flower in my garden that I’ve been particularly fond of but knew next to nothing about. I know very little about many of the plants in our garden, but this wasn’t even one I had bought from one of the many garden centres we like to visit. This had been in the garden, before my fiancee bought the flat. You can see it in the photo above. It burns through with a searing orange. Even in this unflattering shot, it commands your attention.
As I didn’t know what to call it, I named it the fire flower. I think I have a flare for naming, this isn’t the best example of said flare (no I didn’t intend to make a pun) but the simple name said it all. It looked as though the bud was about to open into a hot flickering flame.
It was late June when the first few flames of the fire flower burst forth, they didn’t disappoint. The variance between deep orange, the type of colour you’d find in coal furnaces transitioned to the more pale orange you’d find on a candle flame. All of that range of colour was on one petal and arranged complementarily on partner petals. Even the arrangement of the buds on the stem, before they open, had a beauty in the tightly packed symmetry. On one spear you would have over twenty buds waiting to open, revealing their full intensity. This flower clearly intended to be high in productivity.
The identity of this flower remained unknown until our recent trip to Cornwall. We were part way through a 13km walk when, in one of the many beautiful gardens that dotted along our route, we saw the magnificent display below.
I immediately recognised that this was in the same family as our own fire flower, but at this point, I still had no name, just a warm lead in this botanical mystery.
Later that same week, we made a trip to The Lost Gardens of Heligan. There we spotted the same flower above, and this time, it had a name, crocosmia ‘Lucifer’. My flare for naming had been matched and even exceeded. This clearly wasn’t enough to definitively identify the flower in our garden, but we do know without doubt that it is a Croscosmia.
We’ve settled on crocosmia crocosmiiflora montbretia as being the most likely identity of our fire flower. We’re not at all certain, but having spent a bit of time on the RHS site, it seems not too far off the mark. The RHS describe the crocosmia as being “deciduous cormous perennials with erect, sword-shaped leaves and branched spikes of showy, funnel-shaped flowers in summer”. I can tell you from experience that this is a hardy, unfussy plant. It wasn’t a chosen flower from a garden centre, it had no privileged upbringing. It fought it’s way through poor, stony, clay soil. It’s roots grip to the edgy of a stone ledge. It wasn’t watered regularly and even now, still only receives run-off water that the more needy plants in our garden can’t immediately take for themselves.
In fact, that hardiness of the plant has lead to it being listed in Schedule 9 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This means that, as an invasive non-native plant of the UK, it is illegal to cause it to grow in the wild. Despite it’s seemingly, unsightly background, I’m a fan of this one. It’s flowers are beautiful, smouldering when overcast and burning brightly in the sunshine.