A Moseley Garden [August 2017]
Thursday, 21st September 2017
I am often asked if there was one plant I would choose to grow in the mid-summer garden with real ‘wow factor.’ It would without fail be the Agapanthus. These plants are indigenous to South Africa (often known as the African Lily). It is a spectacular flowering perennial family which has both evergreen (half hardy in UK) and deciduous forms (hardy) and can be seen growing en masse across the Mediterranean, Canary islands and in similar climates around the world such as California and parts of Australia.
Until relatively recently few people grew them in the domestic setting here in the UK, unless in giant pots on the grand terraces of stately homes, or as part of ‘fancy’ herbaceous borders in botanical show gardens. The first time I saw them growing in a municipal setting in Birmingham was 10 years ago when the council planted up the roundabout on Edgbaston Road by Cannon Hill Park for Moseley in Bloom. That planting scheme included a few good structural tropical plants, but that summer the beautiful Agapanthus blue flowers appeared and brought the display to life.
I then started to incorporate Agapanthus into planting schemes of my own with great success. They have a long period of interest; coming into leaf (the deciduous varieties) in May with strappy and succulent mid green leaves. By the end of June flower stems can be seen emerging from the foliage and over the next six weeks they grow above the leaves to form attractive flower heads gradually opening to reveal the stunning multi-flowered blue, purple and white heads. These can be cut for flower arrangements for the house or left in situ to become a showstopper either in pots on the patio, or as features in the borders.
They are easy to grow as long as you avoid buying the half hardy cultivars such as Agapanthus Africanus which can be wiped out by a persistently cold and damp winter. Varieties such as the Agapanthus ‘Northern Star’ and RHS recommended Agapanthus ‘Loch Hope’ both of which lose their leaves in winter and reliably return again the following year.
They flower better when the roots are restricted in a pot in a well-drained planting mixture with broken crock or gravel at the base and compost mixed with grit for the main mix. They thrive in the sun, so make sure they get at least 5 hours sunlight when you choose a place for them. When planting Aggies in your borders you must avoid clay soil or poorly drained ground.
You can purchase Agapanthus at most good nurseries in July and August, and John and his partner at York Supplies in Kings Heath have some great wholesale nursery contacts and will order pretty well any size or variety you may want.
Enjoy the sun and fingers crossed for a warm August.