Agapanthus: Flower of Love

It is appropriate that June, the favorite month for weddings, should also be the peak bloom period for the flower of love, otherwise known as agapanthus. The name is a combination of two Greek words: agape (love) and anthos (flower).
Agapanthus certainly has a romantic air about it. Straight or slightly leaning peduncles – flower stalks – up to 5 feet tall are capped with clusters of as many as 100 blue or white flowers. Agapanthus grows in the same cultural conditions as the daylily (Hemerocallis), whose yellow varieties make a fine complement to the agapanthus blues. Both agapanthus and daylily are highly adaptable plants, capable of tolerating well-drained to somewhat heavy soil and full to partial sun exposures.
Agapanthus is also an excellent companion to pink and white floribunda roses that, like agapanthus, flower at a height of 3 to 5 feet. The white floribunda rose of choice would be “Iceberg,” while the list of pink floribundas would include “First Edition,” “Betty Prior” and the apple-scented “Guy de Maupassant.” If you want to get a quick education in roses, go to www.starroses.com.
Agapanthus’ nicname – lily-of-the-Nile- is a misleading name since the plant is native to South Africa, more than 1,000 miles away from the Nile River. Coming from South Africa, however, is a virtual guarantee of its suitability to San Fernando Valley growing conditions, since our climate is a near match to that at the bottom of Africa. Geraniums, gazanias, iceplants, fortnight lilies (Dietes) and birds of paradise are all of South African origin and all grow with a minimum of care in the Valley, just as they do in South Africa. Incidentally, for a simple, low-maintenance primary color garden, consider a combination of blue agapanthus, yellow daylily and red geranium.
In recent years, intense hybridization efforts have been conducted with agapanthus, yielding cultivars that digress from the traditional light blue and white flowering types. Some of the new agapanthuses are fragrant as well.
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Marilyn Kauffman of Tehachapi inquires as to whether there are any plants resistant to rabbits, since she has seen her garden decimated by these long-eared creatures. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden has compiled a list of rabbit-resistant plants, many of which will grow in Tehachapi as well as in our Valleys. This list includes yarrows, those drought-tolerant perennials with green or gray lacy leaves and flat-topped flower clusters in yellow, red or white; artemisias, a group of dry-climate plants with finely lobed silvery foliage and a mounding growth habit; and irises, bellflowers, daylilies, geraniums, lamb’s ear and narcissus.
Mrs. Wallace of Glendale asks about establishing wildflowers on a slope that consists of “decomposed granite with soft earth covering.” For several years, around Thanksgiving, she has planted seeds on her slope with little success.
Decomposed granite is an excellent soil for growing wildflowers because it crusts over after a rain and holds water tightly. The challenge is getting seeds to germinate in it. This might be more easily achieved by scraping a bow rake over the soil prior to planting.
You should also sprinkle compost or peat moss over the seeds after planting in order to keep the seeds from drying out after the rain comes. You might also consider planting at the end of January rather than in November since, on average, most of our annual rainfall arrives in February.
And do not disparage: It takes time for wildflowers to naturalize an area.
Tip of the week: Agapanthuses make excellent cut flowers. Combine them in vase arrangements with other June bloomers that are lauded as cut flowers, including daylilies, roses, hydrangeas, gladioluses, zinnias, delphiniums and Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria).
GARDEN WONDERS
Gardener: Carmelo Machi
Residence: West Hills
Plants of interest: Lemon tree and grapefruit tree.
What makes these plants amazing: Machi grafted the branch of a pomelo onto a lemon tree and a grapefruit tree. The resulting fruit from each tree weighed 3 pounds or more. “This is done in Italy, because it’s good for salad,” Machi says.
Maintenance: “Like a regular tree. I feed it once in a while.”
What Joshua Siskin says: “Grapefruit is a hybrid of a couple of different plants, one of them being the pomelo – also called shaddock. The fruit from the pomelo can be huge, some as big as soccer balls. It makes sense that you can graft a pomelo onto a grapefruit easily, seeing as grapefruit comes from the pomelo. And you can always graft citrus together, which explains why a lemon tree would work.”
– Mike Chmielecki

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