Try Gardening with Foliage First

I've taken a page (actually, several pages) from Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz. If ever there were a recipe book for a huge array of plant ingredients, this is it. The authors include plants most of us would never have thought of using together. I particularly love the one entitled "Bad Hair Day," named for the tufted topknots of the pineapple lilies and the tousled petals of a cactus Dahlia.  But the flowers wouldn't shine so brightly if it weren't for the connectors in the form of a wine-colored barberry and golden Korean fir.

These ladies have thought of everything, including the consideration we often don't take into account--how the design grows. Each combination is considered for its seasonal sequence, or how each plant comes into its prime at certain times in the season.

A container filled with plants that include a shrub, a perennial and several annuals is meant to last the majority of the season, its colorful and textural foliage working wonders to brighten up a semi-shady corner. With only two flowering plants included in the seven-plant combo, it's good to have foliage that carries the color through summer. Consider the impact of:

  • Lamb's ears 'Bella Grigio' with long, arching, silvery, nearly-white leaves
  • Aeonium 'Sunburst' offers succulent foliage that's pale green striped with cream
  • Sedum with deep purple leaves provide a perfect foil for the lighter colored plants.
  • Fountain grass 'Fireworks' is slender and variegated hot pink-green-burgundy-white.
  • Deutzia 'Creme Fraiche' is a hardy dwarf shrub with pale green edged with white.
  • Fan flower 'Pink Wonder' is an annual flower with pink flowers on stiff stems.
  • Bacopa is a trailing plant with the bonus of tiny white flowers. 
I love the idea of separating the combinations into early to mid-summer and late summer to fall. The categories are further separated by their preference for full sun or part shade. The authors have even devised combinations that change color, hold their own while you're on vacation, and examples of pairing plants with sculptural elements, from vases to figurines. 

Gardening with Foliage First by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz is the perfect kind of book--it's great for just leafing through for the great photos, but it's also easy to pick up and pick out a few eye-catching designs to try in your own garden. 

Mixed container for sun
Mixed container for shade
Inspired by the book, I tried my own version of mostly foliage in a few of my humongous planters. In one I combined plants with great foliage like Coleus, Alocasia (elephant ear), and creeping Jenny, but I added a couple of Pelargoniums (annual geraniums) with bi-colored leaves. Included in the mix are partially grown bulbs of Ismene 'Sulphur Queen', which is commonly called Peruvian daffodil. This is a pale yellow variety of the fragrant, summer-blooming bulb, and I can't wait til it blooms. I have to just make sure that the bulbs have enough room to stretch up and out when it comes time for them to bloom.

Bloomers, along with the Pelargoniums and the Peruvian daffodils, include a shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana), which might get quite tall, but is easy to pinch. The big guy toward the middle is Alocasia Gageana California, a dwarf elephant ear that grows to just 4 feet tall.
I'll have to keep an eye on it though, as its leaves tend to droop and cover the plants surrounding it. Until the companion plants beneath it grow large enough to hold their own, I'll be selectively removing its lower leaves.

The entire container doesn't look like much now, but the photos will serve to remind me what I planted, so if any of the residents start to muscle in on its neighbors, I can rescue them by doing a bit of pruning. And I always warn my plants that if they really misbehave or even disappoint me, I'm not afraid to get out the shovel.

I think I'll be much happier with these "mostly foliage" planters. They'll be colorful even if they don't have flowers.





What's In Bloom This Week?


I like to create bouquets from whatever's in bloom in my garden. The list below has some links to help determine what's what. Here's what's in this vase, created on May 12, 2017:

Magnolia sieboldii
Centaurea montana
Silver bells Ornithogalum nutans 
Aquilegia ‘Winky Double Red-White’
Candelabra primrose Primula japonica
Spiraea x van houtteii 'Pink Ice'

Making the Prettiest Container Combinations

The other day I accompanied my husband on a trip to the local garden center to buy bird seed and dog food, and upon his urging, picked up a six pack of annuals to go.

He handed me the receipt on the way out and asked me to look it over because, "I think they may have overcharged us." After giving the bill the once over and telling him it all looked kosher, he still wore that "I've been fleeced" look.

"How much did you think the plants cost," I asked.
This is what $38 looks like 

"Oh, I don't know--$1.99?"

I had to laugh. It had been awhile since he'd gone plant shopping with me. (Actually, it was just last year on our Ohio Plant Odyssey, but I'd managed to lull him into vacation mode so he didn't notice.) Some garden centers are pricier than others, and this one was on par with low to mid-range, charging $5.99 apiece for 4-inch pots that are actually about 4.25 - 4.33 inches in diameter.

It's so tempting to put together a little "outfit" that goes so well together, which I did with my feed store/garden center purchase. But it's certainly not complete. The creation cries out for some spillers and even another thriller. The Calla will mostly likely finish up its bloom, as will the other flowering plants, so I'll be left with the Salvia 'Cathedral Purple' for color, and a bunch of leaves from the other plants.

With the weather somewhat unsettled over the past week or so, I've been planting those plants that have been hardened off, or acclimated to the outdoors. I leave room for additions as they come in. It's not a bad idea to go on at least two shopping expeditions for the best combinations.

I'd love to capture the look of this gorgeous combination
At Thursday's plant shopping extravaganza I'll be looking for tall plants with a narrow shape, perhaps some grass-like tropicals. I'll also search for some spillers, as they're so versatile for softening the edges of the pot.

I will strive to capture the exuberance of this container combination on display last year at River Street Flowerland in Kalamazoo, MI.

I'd purchased several blooming Begonias on our first plant shopping trip, along with several other flowering annuals, but once again, I'd ignored the importance of foliage for a cohesive and exciting combination.

So today, I'll be taking stock of what I've bought so far and perhaps even snapping a photo or two so that I can create some combinations that might have the impact of the one I'd seen at the garden center I'll be visiting tomorrow.

It's a sickness, I know...

Flowers for Spring Bouquets: You Can Grow That!

The Pooley Puzzle combines flowers
that wouldn't get along otherwise.
It's slightly possible I have more vases than most people. I don't spend a lot of money on them because I find many of them at my local resale shop and at other bargain-hunter haunts. Those I buy typically come from public garden gift shops, and at clay artists I find while on vacation.

Whenever I have a few flowers blooming in the garden, I start bringing a sampling in for a stint in a vase. It doesn't matter if their stems are just 4 inches long--I have just the right vase.

Narcissus are famous for fouling the water the're in. Their stems give off a substance that will shorten the vase life of other flowers. It's recommended they have their own separate vase. But I love them mixed with other flowers.

One of the little combination vases I have is the Pooley Puzzle, which features a clutch of tubes that allows you to put different types of flowers, no matter what their vase life or reputation. In this vase, I was able to mix small and large-cup daffodils with blue and white Muscari and Grecian windflower (Anemone blanda).

A short-stemmed clutch of daffodils.
Luckily, I have hundreds of daffodils throughout all of my garden beds so I can cut lots. I've found it takes quite a few stems to fill a vase. I have a little pitcher that works well for holding shortened stems of daffodils. To make them look like a full bunch, I cut the stems around 6 to 8 inches long before arranging them in the vase.

Narcissus 'Berceuse'
Whether you like to cut bouquets or enjoy the flowers in the garden, make sure to choose early, mid- and late-season varieties. I have a few new varieties, including Berceuse, considered a mid-season variety, this year opening around mid-April.
This arrangement includes Hellebores, two types of Fritillaria, Viburnum and Epimedium.

One of the longest-lasting bouquets for mid-spring contains Epimedium, Checkered lily (Fritillaria), Lenten rose (Hellebores) and Viburnum. The first to burst its flowers was the Epimedium, but I just snipped the stems off and left the leaves, which remained as perky as the rest of the stems in the vase for a solid week. I changed, or at least topped off the water every two days.

Still on the plant, this stem consists of both fresh
and spent flowers, i.e. flowers that have dropped their
stamens.
Hellebores that are freshly opened don't last very long as cut flowers. I made sure to pick the those that had already dropped their stamens, after which they typically take on more of a green hue, but they're just as pretty. One thing I learned is that if you pick a stem of Helleborus that includes a spent flower and a bud, the bud opens slowly in the arrangement and stays fresh for a few days rather than several hours.


Think Ahead to Zinnia Season

It's as green as a cartoon frog. Wind is wet and cold. And it's going to change. Just a typical springtime in the Midwest. Or, more specifically, at the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Other than the sound of the wind, it's been quiet. Even the two rival birds seem to have moved on. A wren and a sparrow have been engaged in a turf war over a bluebird nest box. Each time I look, there is either a wren or a house sparrow standing guard on the nearby fence, its posture peppered with as much threat as it can muster. Kind of hard when you tip the the tiniest scales at around an ounce.
It's possible they've moved off, or one has given up. We've been checking on the box, and there is the same half-built nest, consisting of a few twigs, since a month ago.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime'
Three tables full of plants anxiously await their release from indoors, while the other dozen--perennials--have been set free to go forth and be hardy, come what may.

I started a whole flat of Zinnias from seed and they've been doing quite well. They're all of one variety, Queen Lime 'Red Heart', another in the Queen Lime series after Queen Red Lime and Queen Lime. I grew 'Queen Red Lime' a few years ago, and loved them.

Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime' just starting to open.
Before growing QRL, the cactus types were my go-to Zinnias. But once I saw this variety, it's hard to be without it. If you think Zinnias are easy to start from seed, you'd be right. But I learned that you've got to treat seedlings with respect. It's hard this time of year to just set them out and be done with it. This "let them fend for themselves already" attitude is one I've adopted on several occasions. But I recently found that the best success comes when you set out seedlings that have really bulked up. I'm talking Kyle Schwarber strong--compact and sturdy.

To get them that way, I've been feeding and pinching, turning and lighting the seedlings to make sure they have what it takes to take up positions in my tiny but sunny cut flower field.

Based on a recommendation from a friend, I've been using the one-two combo of Dyna-Gro Grow 7-9-5 plant food and Superthrive. For each gallon of water I'm adding 1/4 tsp of Superthrive and 1 tsp of Dyna-Gro Grow formula for every watering.

I used two types of pots to grow the zinnias--coir pots made of coconut husks, and regular plastic pots of the same size. The reason for this is that I'd learned zinnias have a difficult time re-acclimating to in ground planting, and am hoping the coir pots will help to ease their transition. However, I think that since all of the zinnias are bulky and healthy with good root systems, they will have a leg up already.

The Zinnias have another couple of weeks to grow healthy roots; some already have flower buds, most of which I've pinched off. As soon as I get them out into the garden, I hope to start another batch--this time Raggedy Anne mix from Renee's Garden.




Anticipation: Someday the Warmth Will Come

My mind is clogged with songs I can't seem to get out of my head. Words and melodies ping pong between It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and Anticipation. It's not anything new--it's the time of year I budget for starting around Christmas.

I've been checking with my neighbor to see where we should go first on our plant crusades. Our mission: to bring back plants we know and love, those we've never tried, and repeats of those that might have died on our watch. Our first stop, Sunrise Greenhouse in Grant Park, IL is always the biggest. I came away with nearly a dozen hardy perennials, lots of Begonias, and assorted others that I'll play around with when it's warm enough to put them in the large planters on the patio.

Zinnias are ready to go.
The nights are still too cold for many of them though-- getting down to around 40 degrees F--and rainy. Springtime rain is probably one of the biggest threats to tender plants.

Plants you purchase at the nursery are (hopefully) pot bound, or at least their roots fill up the pot. If the roots are healthy, they've found their way into all the pot's nooks and crannies.

Plants with substantial root systems get thirsty when they're outside in a sunny, windy environment. In order to acclimate, or harden off, my plants, I put them outside in the shade for the first couple of days, gradually moving them into a partly-sunny location that gets maybe two hours of direct sun. If the plants' requirements include full sun, I'll move them further out into the sun every couple of days until they're out where they'll be on the patio, or otherwise getting a similar amount of sun as they'll get when they're planted.

Hardy and tender plants are huddled up near the house in anticipation
for when the temperatures warm up.

I've got to remember not to water them late in the day. I imagine swimming all day in the hot sun, becoming exhausted from the exertion, and then coming out of the water when it's about dark. As kids, we would finally come out and shiver, our teeth chattering to the point we couldn't catch our breaths. I picture my plants doing the same thing, only it's their roots that can't catch a breath because they're encased in cold damp soil.



One of the pots I kept in the garage over the winter is rewarding me with hope for flowers and possibly even growth from a tropical plant in the center. I started a foxglove--Digitalis 'Silver Fox' from seed last year, but it never bloomed. I'd combined the foxglove with a tropical plant, some rain lilies and something else, but I'm not sure yet what that is. I kept the pot in the garage for the winter, not expecting much. But I'm really excited to see the plants have survived!

All in all, I'm anticipating a new and colorful season of plants from last year, this year, and even many years past. It really is that most wonderful time of the year.

Of Naked Ladies ... Worth a Peek


"Naked lady" cover art by Linda Fraser.

From the back story of the Hydrangea named Annabelle to the tongue-in-cheek tagging of the obedient plant, Armitage has corralled some quirky stories in this portable paperback.

 Of Naked Ladies and Forget-me-Nots contains snippets of history that, at the very least, will leave us wanting more. But that's a good thing. For such short stories in so small a book can take not days to get through, but years.

When I read about the forget-me-not flower becoming the symbol of the Freemasons in Europe, I wanted to know more about WWII Germany.

I loved the story of the Verbena Armitage introduced to culture, and how it got its name: 'Homestead Purple'.

There are three stories about Epimedium, AKA horny goat weed, AKA barrenwort, AKA bishop's hat. I like the one about horny goat weed best. But take a minute or two to read them all for yourself as they are covered in just three photo-filled pages of the book.

If foxes wore gloves...
I passed along the story behind Queen Anne's lace while on a staff tour at the arboretum I worked for, encouraging one employee to take a close look at the center of the flower botanically named Daucus carota ssp. carota. But I still enjoyed reading Armitage's story about the queen and her tatting.

Don't miss the story behind foxgloves, in particular the one that starts with "Once upon a time,..." Although the etymologists can't seem to agree on how the common name for Digitalis came about, it's still fun to read.

I hated history in school. It was all a bunch of boring events with dates you had to memorize. And if the teacher left you snoozing, it was even worse. I wish I'd learned about John McCrae, the doctor and poet who connected poppies to Flanders fields and WWI and penned In Flanders Fields.

Or Moina Michael, the teacher from Georgia who campaigned to choose the red Flanders poppy as the flower of remembrance.

And how about the first subsidized crop in the U.S.? Not tobacco or even hemp, but a plant the British Empire coveted for its dye properties. (Find the answer on page 71.)

 Of Naked Ladies and Forget-me-Nots: The stories behind the common names of some of our favorite plants is a filled with tales favored by fairies and old wives, but it also contains historical background information that is actually fun to read. It definitely sets this gardening wordsmith's heart aflutter. It's a good thing I grow foxgloves. And that's a big LOL.

Tulip-mania at MOBOT

Visiting Missouri Botanical Garden in springtime is guaranteed to make you want to plant tulips. In a big way. To get the look captured by the designers at MOBOT, you have to plant bulbs shoulder to shoulder.

In most cases, I wasn't able to determine the varieties planted, but you should be able to recreate the themes in your own garden by taking a look at ColorBlends wholesale bulbs, most likely in the mid-Spring range.

I loved the butter-yellow tulips with Fritillaria persica, which is sometimes called Persian lily as their native range includes western Iran.
I don't think I'd have considered mixing short tulips among the taller varieties, but this bright grouping makes great eye-candy. If you look close, some of the varieties have leaves edged in pale yellow, adding an even brighter look to the group.


These simple white tulips actually seemed to glow in this partly shady nook at the edge of some tall shade trees.

 There were a lot of double tulips at MOBOT. This one is called 'Abba'.

'Sensual Touch' is the name this orangey-yellow tulip goes by.

Many of the varieties--named and otherwise--should be available at VanEngelen Bulbs.

The $92 Plant: Part Two

Aechmea 'Del Mar' in Phoenix
Remember the $92 plant? The one we paid $26 for in Phoenix and spent another $66 to ship it home? For those of you who might find yourselves in need of a shipping method, first let me tell you--it was successful, the plant arriving nearly a week after being shipped, and in perfect condition.


Step 1: make sure the soil is moist, and if not, water it and let it drain for a few hours before proceeding with packaging.

Step 2: Secure the soil in case the plant tips over by cutting out a piece of cardboard to place over the soil surrounding the plant's stem(s) and secure it with packing tape. Don't be stingy with the tape--think hurricane shutters. The garden center proprietor did this for us, using her own tape.

Step 3: Find a tube if it's just one potted plant; if it's more than one plant, that's a whole new method. We found a concrete form tube at the Home Depot that, though a bit heavy, worked perfectly. It was about 8 inches in diameter. They come in diameters ranging from six to 12 inches. The typical length is 48 inches.

Step 4: While you're at Home Depot, purchase an inexpensive saw blade and a roll of duct tape. Tape up the handle of the blade so you can use it without cutting yourself while you are cutting the concrete form tube to the correct length af
ter you determine what that is.

Step 5: You will have to secure the bottom of the pot to the bottom of the form tube, but first you have to form a bottom for the tube. The local post office helped out here with one of their shipping boxes. We scrounged around the condo we were staying in and found scissors to cut three circles of cardboard to fit the tube.

Aechmea 'Del Mar' at home.
Step 6: Secure the pot to one of the cardboard circles with tape, staples, wire, string, or anything you can find. Then secure that circle to the circle cut for the bottom. Make sure the pot fits really snugly into the tube so it stands less chance of slipping. We used newspaper and paper bags.

Step 7:  Secure the heck out of the bottom of the tube.

Step 8:  Take the package to whatever shipper you choose to use. Ask if they will dump in some styrofoam peanuts into the top of the container before sealing it up with the third cardboard circle.




Hellebores First to Bloom


Hellebore 'Peppermint Ice' offers just a hint of pink in its petals.
I love it when the mornings are warm enough to meander through the garden, coffee in hand, looking to see if anything broke through during the night. My coffee chills before I’m ready to come inside, so I set it down and find a sturdy stick to use as a gentle probe, pushing aside leaves and litter to find little surprises. My husband says he sees my lips moving, and I imagine he’s right. A mumbling stream of consciousness sounds like this: “What? Oh. Primrose? Hmm.. Which lily is this? I don’t remember putting this there. Yay! The green peony has six stems!”
Hellebore 'Spanish Flare' blooms with a flair.

After planting my first Hellebores--one with flowers of a magenta color and one of a very deep purple shade, I learned that I much prefer lighter colored flowers because they stand out so much better. After all, they're one of the first blossoms in the garden and it isn't often clement at that time. 

Another feature I've come to love about some varieties of Helleborus is outward facing flowers. While many seem naturally nodding, it's tough for a regular-sized person to see them unless they slither around on their bellies. 

Not that I haven't done this--camera in tow--in order to take photos of these pretty springtime harbingers. Looking to the future, which is coming increasingly closer, I hesitate to assume my body will allow such a posture for much longer. So, with all of the varieties whose flowers show their faces, why waste space with the sulking types?

I added one to my collection last year that looks like it will be an upfacing type. It's from the Winter Jewels series and it's called 'Cotton Candy'. The name is appropriate, as its double petals give it that extra-fluffy look. It seems that the double varieties could have more difficulty keeping their heads up, but
Hellebore 'Cotton Candy' holds its head up quite nicely.

I planted Winter Jewels 'Rose Quartz' in 2014, and it's really putting on a show this year. Even though it hasn't opened its flowers yet, I can see the picotee edges, one of the reasons I chose it.

My latest Hellebore acquisition is one called 'Spanish Flare'. It's part of the Honeymoon Series by Walters Gardens. I planted three that I received from Walters Gardens as a trial. I planted them in different spots in the garden to compare conditions. The one in bloom isn't getting any more or any less sun or moisture than the other two, but it's the only one with a flower. Its leaves suffered a bit of damage to their edges from when it got really warm and returned to really cold. No big thing. The plant will produce more leaves during the summer.

Even before opening 'Rose Quartz' shows off its rose-colored edges.




The $92 Plant

The as-yet-unknown bromeliad at Berridge Nursery.
Some plants are all about the flowers. It certainly can be said about one we spotted while on vacation. Berridge Nurseries was on my list of places to visit while we were in the Phoenix area. The greenhouse contained lots of treasures, including a batch of orchids, a collection of African violets and plenty of nice-looking pots.

We both spotted it at the same time, tucked into a display of foliage plants. The electric flower spike refused to be ignored--it was something we'd never seen before. The tag was vague, indicating it was a bromeliad from Kent's Bromeliad Nursery, a wholesaler located in California. We didn't even know what it was, but my husband had to have it.

We later learned it was Aechmea 'Del Mar', a hybrid by Bullis Bromeliads of Princeton, FL.

My husband paid the proprietor $26 for the plant and asked her to attach a piece of cardboard at the soil level of the pot so that the soil wouldn't escape in case the plant tipped in transit.

I must say here that I advised against it, but I'd already set a precedent when I paid $150 for an intersectional peony and brought it home as a carry-on item from Oregon. But this plant was a different story, I told my smitten spouse. Its leaves have spines that prick you whenever you touch them. And we worried the flower spike would snap off, negating the reason for its finding its way into my plant menagerie. While we continued our vacation, we mulled over the carry-on conundrum.

The situation required a trip to a hardware store, a shipping store, and a Home Depot, where my clever husband found a concrete form tube. The tube was 48" tall, about a foot taller than we needed, so he also bought a reciprocating saw blade (total: $15.87) and a roll of duct tape. He later lost the saw blade and had to buy another ($3.05).

The day before we left to come home, my husband realized he couldn't carry the unwieldy monstrosity--that had turned into a 36" tall, 8" wide tube that weighed around eight lbs.--onto the plane. We went to a local shipper in Sedona. The bill included $3 worth of packing peanuts and came to a total of $47.96 including tax.

He's a bit bummed about the $92 price tag for a plant, but there is only one way to look at it. The flower supposedly lasts for up to six months. For something that pretty/unusual/colorful, it's a bargain, even if we never get it to bloom again.




Freesias Make March Magic

Freesia alba blooms in late winter-early spring.
We came home from a week in Arizona to a heavenly scent. I'd hoped as much, but worried the Freesia alba that was ready to bloom when we left would be cloying and unpleasant.

Actually, I was concerned they'd smell like scented tampons. Years ago, I'd purchased a box of Freesia-scented tampons and hated them. It was as if the scent was emanating from inside my body. Wait a minute! It was!

Anyway, I won't go down that road, which luckily I no longer have to travel. Suffice it to say, adding the chemically-created scent that supposedly mimicked a flower's fragrance was like turning a Led Zepplin song into elevator music. Enough said.

Removed that image from your minds? Good. First, just the vision of this particular Freesia promises good things.

Somewhat succulent and just a touch of sparkle that white, thick-petaled flowers have. The golden centers and fuzzy white anthers add more charm and draw you in for a sniff.

Three stems of Freesia alba.
If the scent and beauty recommendation is enough to make you want to try it, jot it on your calendar for next fall. I planted the 10 Freesia alba corms in one pot in mid-October. Counting back around 18 weeks from planting to bloom, you could plant them through mid-December for flowers as late as May.

Two things I'd recommend for good growth and bloom are lights and soil with great drainage. You'll need supplemental light for these African sun-dwellers.

I used a soil mix that included half good potting soil and half a mixture of chicken grit, perlite and coir.

If you have a soil mix that you use for cacti, add some good compost type potting soil to it and you'll have the perfect mix.

Freesia leaves sprouting after just two weeks.
After planting the pointy corms 2 inches deep (between October and December in the Northern Hemisphere), water lightly and put the pot in a sunny spot. The trickiest thing about growing bulbs in the winter is that, many of them, like Freesia, actually prefer cool temperatures. But cool temps and wet soils are a recipe for fungus. I keep my house around 64 degrees F during the winter. But I use a heat mat for newly planted bulbs, which keeps the soil from remaining in a soggy state. My Freesia corms sprouted in about two weeks, and in a month, the leaves were about 8" high.

Strangely enough, the other varieties I'd planted at around the same time as this one are not doing well at all. My guess is they don't like the pot they're in. For the Freesia alba, I just used a thin plastic pot.




Agapanthus: From Africa to Indiana

This might be one of the warmest winters on record for the Chicago area. But to a bulb from Africa, it's not saying much. On a 65 degree day in February (yes, I'm talking the Midwest), I decided to check on some of the bulbs I'd attempted to overwinter in the garage.

I was amazed over how well the Agapanthus fared. It had grown and bloomed last summer in a pot that barely contained its bulk. I left it in its pot, cut back the leaves and tucked it into a cardboard box lined with more cardboard and put it on an out-of-the-way shelf in the garage. Just three months later, it's ready to start without me.
Newly repotted Agapanthus is raring to go.
Its new leaves were pale but perky, and seemed not to care that they didn't get any light. It's why they're nearly white--they can't photosynthesize without sunlight. I knocked the plant out of its confinement and, using a sharp knife, cut its root ball in half. Each half ended up the perfect circumference for my bloemBagz planters.   I've used fabric grow bags before and had mixed results, however, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I thought they'd be perfect to sink into a larger planter in order to be able to pull the plant in the bag out later. It didn't work, probably because the soil surrounding the cloth pot turned it into a non-breathable barrier, which led to rot.          
So this year, I'll be leaving the bloemBagz planter out on its own. If it starts to dry out too quickly, I can place it into a larger plastic, fiberglass or ceramic pot. I potted them so the soil level leaves about an inch of material all around.
Bloem has stepped up the fashion on their planters, which are made from recycled water bottles and other recycled materials. It's double-layered yet breathable, so it should be ideal for plants whose roots don't like to be constantly wet. I used two red planters for the split Agapanthus. After watering the plant in, the bottom of the pot became so saturated, and I had to find something to put it on before bringing it inside for the night (Wet roots + 40 degree temps = bad things). The pots eventually soaked up the saturation so that I could put them directly on the heat mat under the lights. 

Here in the Midwest, where winters are no walk in the park, Agapanthus would rather die than bloom.  I've learned that, unless you buy one that is in bloom and/or incredibly ready-to-pop-out-of-its-pot root bound, it will take another season or more before it's ready to give you some flowers. 

The Agapanthus I divided is the only one that has any chance of blooming this year. Dividing it will promote root regeneration and growth after it settles into its new digs. Which is where the bottom heat and indoor culture comes in. Thanks to the unseasonable weather, I was able to perform the really messy job of dividing and repotting it in mid-February. So it has at least a month's head start. 
Variegated Agapanthus in September, 2016.

Variegated Agapanthus in February, 2017
Another Agapanthus has been growing indoors since I potted three small plants up into a clay planter. It's called Agapanthus 'Neverland', and it's basically a short variety with variegated leaves. Last September, I was given three plants in 2" pots to try. I planted them all into a 12" diameter clay pot and have been growing the potted plants under lights all winter long. It hasn't grown that much on the surface, but judging by how quickly it dries out, its roots are busy bulking up for the next round. I will be very pleased if it gets pot bound in another seven months. Perhaps it will bloom in 2018. When you're growing a plant that comes from the other side of the world, you have to be patient.