Perhaps the most popularly celebrated of all American holidays, the Fourth of July is a day of BBQ’s, fireworks and a whole lot of homegrown pride. Freedom and democracy go well with a side of potato salad and nothing sets a picnic table with more class and style than a vase full of tall Kniphofia, called by the glorious common names- torch lily or red hot poker. Consider a tall, glass jar of these as cut flowers or small potted container to plant in your own garden afterwards as the perfect condiment at your Fourth of July grill out.
Native to the Old World of southern Africa, this bright orange, red and yellow flowering perennial plant has been found to thrive in the New World and has fast become a staple in gardens from California to the New York islands. While it is accustomed to moist, peaty soils, much like many immigrants to America, it is able to adapt to a wide range of climates, including dry, xeriscape gardens. As long as it has well draining soil and plenty of sunlight, it will come back every year to flower in June, July and August. If you are attending a Fourth of July BBQ hosted by someone else, a small container of this plant is the perfect perennial hostess gift to bring and will be available (and at its peak flowering time) right around this all-American holiday.
Each stem of this tropical looking plant is topped by a rattle-like arrangement of tiny orange, red or yellow individual blooms that hang down in overlapping rows. New cultivars come in bright yellow, deep red and sunny orange and add an exotic look to any mix of flowers. On their own, torch lilies look like fireworks in a vase and will stand out at any picnic.
As a cut flower, the torch lily has become a new florist favorite for its unusual, pendulous blooms along a tall, straight stem. Reaching heights of 1 to 3 feet, these stems look amazing mixed in with tropical looking Birds of Paradise or ornamental ginger, or tucked in with more softly textured alstroemeria. For a really firework-effect, pair with red or white dahlias and stems of delphinium.
While these strange blooms are gaining in popularity and will be at their best in mid summer, they may not be on your florist’s usual rotation and are worth calling about a few days in advance to be sure they are in stock.
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