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Colorful California crocosmia and the scent of saffron

As the floral color palette follows the lead of maple and oak trees by transitioning to the warm tones of fall, one stunning bloom that needs to be on your radar is crocosmia. This bloom isn’t new to the cut flower world, but it has a relatively short season so you need to pay attention to appreciate this wonderful flower that manages to display yellow, red and orange all on the same stem.

Originating in South Africa, crocosmia is a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, and grows from corms either planted in open fields or in soil-filled crates. The season ranges from late summer to about Thanksgiving, bringing an autumnal, garden-fresh look to any design.

crocosmia-field Crocosmia has three key elements that make it a welcome addition to your floral department:

1. Texture — Each stem has multiple rib-like blooms that provide a depth of texture and give your bouquets an extra dimension. Is there any trend hotter than texture right now?

2. Length — Beefy stems are graded 36 to 40 inches, providing a serious “wow” factor. In an enhanced bunch or as a consumer bunch, these beauties make a statement. And they have a botanical bonus feature — check out the sword-shaped leaves that almost look like a tropical design element. The leaves are very strong and will work great in a variety of applications. 

3. Color — The blooms are a deep, orange-tinged red. This color is the essence of fall. As you look closer, you see the almost zebra-like stripes of yellow on the buds and this combination of red, orange and yellow in a single cluster of blooms is exceptionally rare.

Crocosmia is a perfect fit in the California-style bouquet aesthetic, which is focused on seasonally-available blooms, hand-tied in a spiral pattern, usually with strong design elements of line and texture.

The name crocosmia is derived from the Greek words ‘krokos’ meaning saffron and ‘osme’ meaning smell. It is said that when the flower heads are put into water that they smell of saffron.

Saffron? This ancient story provided a good opportunity for an experiment in the office, so yes; I ran to the cooler, grabbed a bunch, dunked them in a bowl of water and took a consensus around the office on the scent.

The most definitive answer came from Sun Valley’s Internet sales manager, Ginny Wyche, who astutely commented that the mixture smelled like “wet flowers.” Nonetheless, we got an unsuspecting handful of people to smell a bowl of wet flowers, which is a good day no matter how you slice it.

As floral designers and floral buyers search for fresh, unique offerings to keep their customers engaged, the tall, textured and colorful crocosmia is a great choice for fall.

Bill Prescott is the marketing communications specialist at the Sun Valley Group in Arcata, CA. He can be contacted at