If there is a gardener’s paradise on earth, I have found it—on the other side of the world. While spending three weeks in New Zealand, I discovered that nearly everything seems to grow well there, even in the most unexpected places.
My husband and I landed in Auckland on a sunny, mid-January day—summer in the southern hemisphere. Bleary-eyed from a 12-hour flight over the Pacific Ocean after a day of traveling across the U.S. from Richmond, we picked up our rental car and headed toward our first destination, the Coromandel Peninsula.
While my husband was trying to focus on driving on the left and I was supposed to be navigating, I was distracted by agapanthus growing everywhere—in ditches and beside highways and rural roads! If you are not familiar with agapanthus, its loose balls of blue or white florets top tall stalks in a dramatic display.
A deep orange flower spreading like wildfire beside the roads also caught my eye. On separate occasions, I asked two Kiwis (New Zealanders) what they were. They both laughed and said they didn’t know the name—they considered the flowers weeds and routinely pulled them out of their gardens! A little research revealed that the striking orange flower is crocosmia, which, like agapanthus, is native to South Africa.
Also known as Lily of the Nile, African Lily, or even Aggie’s Pants, agapanthus grows from rhizomes that spread. Related to gladiolus, crocosmia grows from corms that multiply rapidly, making it difficult to eliminate once established. Both plants require full sun and well drained soil. While some varieties of crocosmia may survive Virginia’s freezing winters, agapanthus should be wintered indoors.
Although agapanthus and crocosmia may be better suited for container gardening here in Virginia, take a second look at the forgotten spots by the road you normally wouldn’t pay much attention. A group of daffodils or daylilies could offer an unexpected treat for passers by.