Submitted by Camilla
While planning for next year’s garden, you may want to consider using Agapanthus. Following is Camilla’s experience with them.
Agapanthus is native to South Africa, where it is practically a weed, and relatively indestructible where it has naturalized. But for us here in zone 5, growing them usually involves pots, and always winter protection. Agapanthus grows from rhizomes, and can be propagated by division, or by saving the seeds and growing them on. I have read that in the Cape Town region they will regrow even after the ground has been burned by fire.
Agapanthus is hardy in zones 6 to 10, grows from 1.5 to 4 feet high, and comes in blue, purple, and white.
In New England, Agapanthus enjoys full sun in summer and will give you brilliant blue flowers and strappy green leaves. It is a handsome way to punctuate a garden in its pot or to decorate a sunny patio, deck, or in our case, to surround a swimming pool.
My family were given eight huge Italian terracotta pots already stuffed with Agapanthus orientalis (synonym: Agapanthus praecox) when we took over the ownership and care of a neighbor’s swimming pool. We all loved them, and since blue was my husband’s favorite color he was happy to be their caregiver. Luckily, they seemed not to need much attention except to be watered regularly. Perhaps he should have fertilized them but it didn’t seem to matter.
Of course we were faced with what to do with them in the winter. The horticultural advice is to bring them inside to a sunny cool location, such as a 50º greenhouse, and water them very little, not adding fertilizer at all until spring. This was simply not possible for us, so every year in the late fall we loaded them one by one onto a dolly and wheeled each heavy pot into our barely heated 35º barn/garage. This room, which had been a stable, had only a few windows, so the light was quite limited. Here during the winter they were only watered once in a while, and generally quite neglected. In the spring when danger of frost had passed we brought them back outside, into the shade at first, so the new foliage wouldn’t burn. Over their winter’s rest quite a few leaves had died, so we had to clean these up (the way you do with daylilies or Siberian iris if you haven’t cut them back the past fall). This gave the new leaves room to grow. (Had we been able to keep them in a location with more light I believe more of the foliage would still have been alive.)
After many years they became so pot bound that we were unable to remove them without breaking the beautiful pots. We had been told that they liked to be pot bound, but clearly we should have divided them sooner. In the end I gave them away, pot and all. I wonder what became of them?