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20 April 2014
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Autumn 2001
  Offshoots
   
 

Add drama and excitement to your borders with the elegant Agapanthus
by Brendan Little

Brendan Little The Agapanthus or the Blue African Lily is one of the aristocrats of the late summer garden. The exotic combination of graceful foliage and stunning flowers is equally impressive in the border or large terracotta planter. And if you do not already grow these wonderful plants then may I suggest you give them a try?

The genus as the common name suggests comes from Africa, South Africa to be more precise, and they have long been a favourite for planting in tubs and large containers. Agapanthus umbellatus is a magnificent species which I have found to be quite hardy at Baronscourt, County Tyrone, although many of the textbooks will tell you that this species is only hardy in the warmest counties. Agapanthus requires full sun and a fertile soil which should be moist rather than dry, but not boggy. They are fleshy-rooted plants that produce clumps of sword like foliage which dies back in winter to emerge again the following spring. They tend to increase rather slowly, eventually needing division and replanting which is best carried out in the spring. Avoid planting them too deep.

Agapanthus umbellatus is a versatile subject that is excellent for cutting and which makes a good companion for a number of other garden plants. I like the combination of Agapanthus and Campanula lactiflora both of which are big and bold. Agapanthus under planted with variegated Lungwort, try the old garden ‘Spotted Dog’ Pulmonaria officinalis, is a combination that I also enjoy.

LilliputDuring the 1950s and ‘60s a number of dark blue forms came on the market under the name of Headbourne Hybrids these popular hybrids are freely available in the horticultural trade and are well worth checking out. If your plot is a small one, the tiny dark blue ‘Lilliput’ may be the one for you. Or perhaps the middle of the road
A. ‘Summer Skies’ which flowers at 40cm tall, may fit your bill.

For me size does matter and I will go for A. ‘Blue Giant’ a real beauty that produces flower stems 1.2m tall.

It should be borne in mind that nearly all varieties will lean toward the sun, which makes a south facing border the most suitable aspect. North facing borders should be avoided if at all possible. Whichever variety you choose I have no doubt that you will be smitten by the Agapanthus bug.

 

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