HARDY PERENNIALS: KINIPHOFIA

Not all’Red Hot Pokers’are of that colour, for nowadays there is white, yellow and many shades between, as well as red. But the one thing they have in common, though some are only 18 inches high and others a massive 6 feet, is the need for good drainage. Their roots penetrate to a great depth to find all they need even in poor soil and indeed I have known plants to be killed by kindness by applying manure or compost in the hope of feeding them well.

They also prefer to be left alone for several years at a stretch and if planting or dividing, one must be careful to avoid roots becoming dry through exposure, and by making a good deep hole so they do not lay bent or bunched after insertion. Spring is much the best time for moving Kniphofias, but it is safe enough for any that have flowered to plant in August or September. For large old plants the back to back method using two forks is best, trying as best one can to avoid damage to the fleshy parts between leaf and root. In some very cold districts or where soil becomes sticky in winter, a collar of litter around plants, after tying up the leaves, is good practice. The effect of the former is to keep the soil and roots from freezing and the latter a precaution against slush and damp entering the crowns which might freeze or set up a rotting process. Having an overall stately appearance, the taller growing kinds especially, are best in some isolation, using a very much dwarfer subject if need be in front so as not to detract.

The first Kniphofias flower in June with, K ‘Gold Else’, a pure yellow, 3 feet high, and K. ‘Atlanta. This has very broad leaves and is robust in every way, with heavy red and yellow pokers 3 ½ feet- K. ‘Earliest of AW is not quite accurate, but at least it is the earliest of these with flame-red spikes. Also early are two new grassy leaved and slender spiked varieties—K. ‘Bressingham Flame1, deep orange and K. ‘Bressingham Torch’, orange flame, both erect and graceful at 3 feet. K. tubergenii is primrose yellow, 3 feet and K. ‘Bees Sunset’ a glowing orange of similar height. For July-August there is the deep orange K. ‘Ada’ 3½ feet. K. ‘Maid of Orleans’ white, tinged pink, K. ‘Jenny Bloom’ salmon-peach— a most unusual shade, and K. ‘Modesto’, a dwarf, rosette leaved ivory suffused pink only 2 feet high. K. ‘Springtime’ is robust at 4 feet with orange red tipped flowers and the fiery red K. ‘Samuel’s Sensation’ has 5 feet spikes in August-September. K. ‘Brimstone’ is a late flowering canary yellow, 3½ feet high, but the rare K. galpinii flowers in October with dainty 20 inches orange spikes. Mixed colours from seed are of course the cheapest to buy, but whatever one decides to grow, a useful hint is to remove faded spikes, for this will prolong the flowering period or encourage them to throw a second crop in the case of early flowering varieties.

KNIPHOFIA 'Bressingham Flame'

KNIPHOFIA ‘Bressingham Flame’

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