July in Cornwall = Agapanthus commonly referred to as the Lily-of-the-Nile or the African lily plant. You will see them everywhere. In planters, alongside the footpaths, in gardens. They instantly take me back to South Africa where they are from and provide an exotic look to a place. I bought some new ones at the beginning of the year, but it will take time before they are big enough to flower and for some reason my variegated leaved agapanthus ‘Silver Moon’ has no flower stems at all this year. Apparently that is not unusual for this variety. Fortunately the strap shaped green leaves with creamy variegation are rather beautiful anyway.
Agapanthus create displays of large masses of striking flowers. They come in a huge range of colours and heights from almost-black through to purple, from French navy to royal blue through to subtle lilac, grey and white and even bicolour ones like ‘Twister’ and ‘Fireworks’.
The name, agapanthus, translates as ‘love flower’ and some are evergreen (Agapanthus africanus and Agapanthus praecox) and others deciduous, depending on which side of the Cape they grow on. The western Cape has a Mediterranean climate with moist damp winters, between May and August, followed by a dry summer between November and January. Agapanthus species on the western side grow in winter when moisture and warmth is available so they like to keep their foliage in winter. These are tender and may need taking into a greenhouse over winter.
The eastern Cape has a wet summer season lasting four months, between November and February, when rainfall averages 5 inches per month (125m). The winters, between May and August, are dry and cool however. As a result agapanthus species found on the eastern side of the Cape tend to do their growing in the summer and then die down in winter.
They respond to both water and food and a liquid high-potash tomato food applied every two weeks will pay dividends and don’t forget that agapanthus needs a sunny position that gets maximum daylight. The flowers, which are bee-friendly, last many weeks and they cut well. Don’t allow them to run to seed, always cut the spent flower heads off.
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