Agapanthus blossoms beautifully in the middle of summer, in more shapes, sizes and colors than ever, but it’s a flower that needs full sun and well-drained soil to do well.

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In the Garden

Agapanthus is Greek for love flower, and the beauty of the globe-shaped blossoms belie the tough, drought-tolerant nature of these lovely herbaceous perennials.

Known commonly as ‘Lily of the Nile,’ Agapanthus form attractive clumps of narrow, strap-shaped leaves, but the real show begins in midsummer, when the large, showy flower clusters form at the end of tall stems. The blossoms commonly come in shades of blue or purple, but also are available in white and pink.

In the old days, the only Agapanthus available had flowers in shades of powder blue, but recently, new ones are showing up at nurseries and online with amazingly colorful flowers in varying shapes and sizes.

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks:

Eighth Annual Seattle Rose Society Public Rose Show, hosted by Molbak’s:

9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 8. Dazzling display and a chance to participate in a friendly, judged competition. Participants are asked to bring their cut roses to Molbak’s at 9:30 a.m. Vases and nametags will be provided. The public will be able to vote on their favorites. Address: 13625 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville.

Fancy Fronds’ 16th Annual Frolic Open House and Plant Sale:

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 8. Rare plants and garden art from some of the Northwest’s premier specialty growers and garden artists. Address: Fancy Fronds Nursery, 40830 172nd St. S.E., Gold Bar.

‘Dunnton Abbey’ Edwardian garden party at Dunn Gardens:

Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 8. Vintage cars, a picnic lunch, croquet, period music, cake walk, flower arranging demonstrations. Tickets: $60. Address: 13533 Northshire Road N.W., Seattle.

Agapanthus ‘Blue Leap’ blooms in August on sturdy 4-foot stems with softball-sized, silvery-blue flowers. Agapanthus ‘Purple Cloud’ has equally large heads of dark-striped purple-violet blossoms.

If you share my love for dark-colored flowers, you won’t be able to resist Agapanthus inapertus ‘Graskop’ and Agapanthus inapertus ‘Midnight Cascade’. Both of these gorgeous plants feature unusual, drooping florets so darkly colored they almost appear to be black.

Agapanthus must have full sun and well-drained soil to thrive in our area. Even then, a lot of the most interesting new varieties are hardy only to about 15 degrees, and if the cold doesn’t kill them, they often rot in our rainy winters.

Mulching heavily with evergreen fern fronds, which add insulation and repel excess water, sometimes succeeds in keeping the more tender varieties alive, but if you want to be sure to enjoy their gorgeous flowers next summer, dig and pot them up in fall to overwinter in an unheated garage.

Some varieties are evergreen and keep their foliage all year. Those should receive just enough water to keep them growing, while deciduous varieties can be left dry to go dormant until you replant them in spring once the danger of a hard freeze is past.

Water drought-stressed trees and shrubs before it’s too late

Even though we just received a little bit of welcome precipitation, two renowned tree experts asked me to get the word out regarding the urgent need to water trees and shrubs this summer.

Seattle City arborist Nolan Rundquist notes that if your tree is turning fall color, or your evergreen tree has more cones than normal, these are signs the trees are suffering from drought stress and need to be watered as soon as possible; then again at least once a month until the fall rains begin.

He is asking homeowners for their help watering newly planted street trees. Even though the city of Seattle is responsible for street trees they plant, they have the resources to refill the tree-watering bags on newly planted trees only once a week. If homeowners could also fill the bags once a week, it would help these new trees get off to a healthier start.

Cass Turnbull, founder and director of Plant Amnesty, an organization dedicated to the proper care of trees and shrubs, has also noticed signs that trees are under stress.

She says even big trees are being affected, and if they’re allowed to remain dry all summer could die in a few years from a seemingly unrelated problem.

Both experts recommend watering with soaker hoses to apply the water slowly enough to soak into what is likely to be powder-dry, hydrophobic soil. If you’re worried about the expense of water, Turnbull says “Remember what it will cost to replace trees and shrubs, especially if a big tree has to come down.”