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Gardening column

An old landscape favorite
By: Kurt Voigt Special to The News Messenger
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I apologize for the delayed column, I have been busy substitute teaching as I wait for a long-term teaching position, which is painstaking as I watch current teachers get their pink slips and wonder how I'll ever be offered a position. It's trying times in education in this great state! Moving on to more happy subjects, one of the most popular and well known plants in the landscape over the years has been a common plant called Agapanthus africanus, Lily of the Nile. When I was growing up in the ‘70s in the Bay Area, the bike paths were lined with these giant, tropical-looking monsters. The kids on the block, including me, used to hunt snails in the strap-like leaves for snail races. Ahhhh, good times! The things we would do to pass the time (before the Internet and video games). Over the years new varieties are much smaller, more garden-friendly and with different colors. An extremely drought-resistant plant with a summer bloom, it gives a tropical effect to the landscape and is an excellent choice for planting next to dry creek beds. They have strap-like leaves and form a clump. The plants are an also an ideal choice for mixing with Hemerocallis (day lily) or mass plantings in swails, parking strips, park plantings and poolside plantings (they are listed in Sunset as a good poolside plant). They are very low maintenance and don't shed leaves. Evergreen even in winter, the Lily of the Nile retains their green color in the fall and winter and can withstand low winter temperatures. This last December, we had a three-day cold snap of low 30s to upper 20s and they didn't succumb to the weather. They can “melt” like any herbaceous plant with a good extended freeze but will recover because of their fleshy, rhizome root system. They do best in full sun, or light shade, can grow in heavy soils (Lincoln), thrive with regular water but can bloom and grow in extended periods of drought as well. The plants come in white, blue, indigo, purple and all shades of blue. It is suggested you divide them every six years for better bloom and control of the clump size. New selections and hybrids have been developed for flower color and size. Some of the more popular varieties are Queen Anne, 1.5' tall with 2' flower stalks; Peter Pan, 1' tall with 1.5' flower stalks; and Storm Cloud with deep blue-violet 4' flower stalks. My personal preference is Peter Pan because of its small size and long summer bloom. A good grouping of Peter Pan in the back and Stella de Oro day lily in front gives a good contrast of colors and plant hierarchy of size. Your irrigation timers should be on by May. Clean your drip system filters, sprinkler head nozzles and make any necessary repairs or upgrades. If you need help, call or e-mail me. Reach Kurt Voigt, landscape designer/consultant, at kurtrae@gmail.com.