Favorite or New Plant
Although brightly colored, with flowers produced for over a month in summer in shades of scarlet, yellow, and orange-red, crocosmias are not the most show-stopping of plants, but they provide an element to the summer garden that is indisputably positive. The plants form clumps of sword-shaped leaves and arching stems of 1- to 2-inch flowers, resembling miniature gladiolas, which are excellent in bouquets. In the garden, I like to intersperse them with hardy red-flowered shrub roses as well as with daylilies. Growing from corms, crocosmias are usually purchased as growing plants, but if corms are purchased, set 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Plant in full sun and in well-drained average garden soil. Among the dozen or so varieties available, the most popular is 'Lucifer', producing a fiery fountain of red blooms. Look, too, for 'Emily McKenzie', with bronze-toned foliage and yellow-orange flowers with maroon markings.
Tool or Gardening Product
My best bud is a Jack Russell terrier named Oscar, who, true to his heritage, loves to chase after creatures great and small, including mice, chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons. Unfortunately, in his pursuit, he has managed to mangle a redwood hot tub surround and numerous drainpipes, where chipmunks especially love to hide. In the interest of a peaceable kingdom as well as monetary issues, I have come to rely on Critter Ridder from Havahart, which is labeled to organically repel skunks, groundhogs, dogs, cats, squirrels, and raccoons. From experience, it also repels mice and chipmunks. The active ingredients include both black and hot pepper, obviously repelling by odor and taste. An application lasts 30 days. Critter Ridder is useful in protecting gardens, landscaped areas, birdfeeders, garbage cans, and so forth. Both liquid and granular formulations are widely available at garden centers, hardware stores, and home supply stores.