yarraTasman Flax Lily (Dianella tasmannica)

Don't read this if you love Agapanthus

Hands up if you got an agapanthus or two growing around the garden? Well you're not alone. Many of us planted them with the best of intentions. They have big, bold flowers; they're tough as old boots; they're well suited to a hedge along the drive; and they are well and truly, survivors. And that is their problem. Most of the plants listed in the "survivor" column of plant books usually are in another book under the "environmental weed" column. So why is the agapanthus on the nose? Well, it's ability to survive (nay, thrive) while being totally neglected by the average punter gardener is amazing. It must have originated from some hardpan steppe desert out the back of Patagonia where it rains bucketloads twice a century. And so we bring it to Aussieland and it spreads its roots and it goes ahhhhhhhhhh! Then it flowers and sets a million seeds that are just a delicacy to our local birdlife and...we have a problem.

If you have agapanthus growing and you can't afford to hire the local excavation company to dig them out (read: rather tough and extensive root system), then at least manage them so they don't spread to the bush or the neighbours. The easiest way to manage them is by cutting off the flower heads once they are past the flowering stage. A pair of secateurs will do the job or if, 20 years ago, you went for the big driveway formal mass planting (you really do need an excavator), then the hedge trimmers will do the job. Now if you do decide to bite the agapanthus bullet and remove them completely then what will you replace them with that won't become a weed itself. There are a few local straplike plants that grow in a similar fashion and shape but may not have the big showy flowers of the agapanthus but will certainly fill the void nicely and you will feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

For the garden, my choice would be the Tasman Flax Lily (Dianella tasmannica). The smooth, shiny leaves are almost as large as the agapanthus and as the plant matures it sends runners out to the side that makes a very nice clump just like an aga. The flowers are nowhere near as voluptuous but are none the less, beautiful: in late spring lots and lots of stems shooting upwards looking almost asparagus like and they open out into purple stars with yellow centres. Very delicate and wispy. As the summer moves into autumn the seed capsules start to form (no need to deadhead these little friendlies).

Dangling from delicate stems are dozens of soft, shiny purple fruit (looking like large purple chocolate bullets) that will certainly turn the head of jealous agapanthus growers. The birds will still love you as the fruit is a big hit with them as well. The Tasman Flax Lily grows all over the Otways from the foothills to the deep cool temperate rainforest. Once established (first summer mulch) the plants will thrive in your garden and give you years of enjoyment so why not give 'em a grow.

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