There are people who claim they don't like the color orange, and others who find pokey and stick-em-up plants a little, well, offensive perhaps or just plain....phallic. Freud being long dead, I think that as Groucho said (I think it was my favorite Marxist) "Sometimes a red hot poker is just a red hot poker"). OK, it wasn't Groucho...It's me who says it.
For most of the benighted 20th Century, the only Kniphofias sold in Denver (or much of the United States for that matter) were "Kniphofia uvaria" (in double quotes because I doubt that species is even in cultivation widely here even now). That serviceable and rather dowdy Kniphofia strain is still sold occasionally, only now more and far more glamorous pokers are showing up at garden centers, and a wealth of species and cultivars can be found mail order.
Two of my faves are starting to bloom in gardens hereabouts. For those of us lucky enough to visit the Drakensberg in January or February, the vast fields of Kniphofia caulescens at higher elevations are one of the world's great floral spectacles. A single plant brings all that majesty into your garden: can't you see it from the picture above to to the left? Alas, that plant is no more (it was in the old cutting garden that is in transit at Denver Botanic Gardens to a new site, and this plant was lost in the translation)...but never fear! There are many more examples growing in South African Plaza. In the next few weeks they will provide a great splash of color in that special place.
The cool tangerine one in the picture below is Kniphofia triangularis (still often sold as K. galpinii). I would rate both of these as among the finest pokers, and indeed the finest late summer perennials imaginable. The fine, grassy foliage of the second and its edible flower color (and tremendous hardiness) make itessential to the core. More and more and more nurseries are stocking both plants since the first is available (as 'Bressingham Comet') through Blooms of Bressingham and the second will be marketed by Plant Select next year.