Gardening / Agapanthus get the chop!

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Agapanthus… about to get the chop.

I HAVE been writing a regular gardening column for more than 30 years and one request I receive from time to time is for me to share what I’m doing in our garden in downtown Watson.

Cedric Bryant.

I know of other writers who base their columns solely on happenings in their own gardens. My preference is to range far and wide, always with the camera in reach.

However, this request has become more frequent lately so this week I’m going to reveal what I’ve been doing at home.

Having been actively involved in designing and advising on gardens to others, also for more than 30 years, I seem to have had little spare time for my own garden with some areas sadly neglected.

But now that I’m not clambering through shrubs and trees measuring gardens or overseeing landscape contractors on frosty mornings, I have more time and one of the first tasks I tackled was to rebuild the compost heap.

The original hardwood, forklift pallets, which formed the walls of the heap, after 25 years had really started to rot.

This only took me a couple of days, so I headed to an area totally ignored for at least 15 years – the agapanthus bed.

I originally planted four Betula pendula or silver birch in a group about one and a half metres apart, despite my always suggesting odd numbers in plantings and in groups of three for silver birch.

Some years ago, in another place, I planted a group of three that grew magnificently for quite a few years and then one suddenly died. So I planted a replacement, but it struggled and was growing out away from the others at a 45-degree angle. It was never going to catch up with its sisters.

When we came to Watson 27 years ago I thought by planting four, if one died, I would be back to the magic number – three.

In fact I planted a group of four in the back as well as the front garden and, behold, they all grew magnificently and today the two groups of four are about 20 metres high.

Under the birch I planted en-masse blue agapanthus, also 20-plus years ago. They must have full sun or they will not flower is the regular advice. Going against the grain, as can be seen in the photo, they flower very well in the shade of the birch.

I had been putting off doing something about the serious overcrowding of the agapanthus for at least 10 years! Last weekend I got out the mattock and went to town.

I’d forgotten the stubbornness of the mass and great clumps of fleshy roots were compounded by roots of the birch. I dug out at least 100 plants, large and small, some only a few years old.

Then I dug in plenty of compost, checked the irrigation (only chopping through the pipe once!) and replanted about 30 small ones. Believe it or not, this took me going solidly for the whole weekend.


  • Finish planting summer and autumn-flowering bulbs
    Hold off planting citrus for another few weeks. More details on planting and varieties later.
  • If dahlias were not lifted for winter this can be done over the next few weeks, dividing the clumps and replanting.
  • A hot summer is predicted, so mulch all garden beds now to prevent loss of moisture through evaporation.
  • Finish planting the summer and autumn-flowering bulbs available now in garden centres.

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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.


  1. Dear Mr Bryant, I was interested to see what you had to say about the agapanthus. I lived in Sydney for Many years where they are a noxious weed, mainly because people do not cut off the spent flower heads. When I moved to Canberra three years ago I was most surprised to see them growing all over the place, basically none had been beheaded. Maybe they don’t become a problem due to the cold weather or not. I do enjoy your columns when ever I come across them here in Canberra

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