I can’t sing high enough praises for these exciting flowers that grow from bulbs. A story that I wrote about growing alliums (aka ornamental onions) is appearing now in the Jul/Aug 2017 issue of four State-by-State Gardening magazines (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri). You can pick up a copy at newsstands and some nurseries or you can order a subscription online.
Several different cultivars of alliums were planted in our gardens this past fall and I’m pleased to share their colorful blooms.
‘Globemaster’ allium bulbs (a favorite) were planted near the lower deck next to speedwell (Veronica spicata) ‘Sunny Border Blue’ (at bottom center). These big purple balls create drama in the garden. They bloom around the same time as peonies and bearded iris (at left.)Planting tip: Plant something low-growing near these tall-stemmed alliums so the browning basal leaves will be hidden. You can see how nicely the speedwell covers the base of one allium at the left. Those strappy leaves that you see are daffodil foliage.
A mix of purple and white alliums were planted in the fall of 2015 on our Easter Island.
For more on our Easter Island visit this December 2016 post https://crabtreegardens.wordpress.com/2016/12/30/the-best-things-in-the-garden-happen-while-youre-dancing/.
Alliums will increase in quantity if they like where they are sited. Planting them in full sun with good drainage in average garden soil should allow them to flourish. In the photo below (May 2017), there are twelve ‘Globemaster’ flower heads blooming in this grouping. The prior year there were the original six. Don’t you love it when your original investment doubles?
The Tumbleweed Onion (Allium schubertii ) remind me of sparklers with their long and short pediciles (stems), just like the irregular sparks that shoot from fireworks. They are a whimsical addition to the garden.Ten bulbs were planted along the front edge of the lowest deck in fall. They were spaced about 18″ apart in a curving row. Their mauve color is picked up by the mauve-brown color stripe on the backside of the petals and buds of this early blooming Dumortier’s daylily (Hemerocallis dumortieri), an old-time fragrant species daylily. What a serendipitous combo these two plants make!A. schubertii needs room to bloom, so plan before you plant as they can grow large flower heads like this specimen in the photo below.
I allowed space between them but didn’t take the spread of the daylilies planted near them into consideration. Centering them in a two foot square would have been better especially along a walkway or front border as these were planted. They would look stunning if planted along a light colored wall because their open structure makes them hard to see from a distance. You can see from the photo below how the solid background color of the grass allows a better view of the flowering head. Imagine that grass being a light colored wall. Spectacular!
Allium moly ‘Jeannine’ is a short (10″), yellow flowering allium that has star-like flowers on an open head. They are known for self-seeding around the garden. They make a nice pairing with catmint (Nepeta spp.). I can imagine A. moly ‘Jeannine’ planted between the A. schubertii for another amazing yellow and mauve display in spring. Maybe I’ll order more and do just that 😉
“The Blue of the Heavens”– what a name! Allium azureum (caeruleum) starts out looking like it’s going to be white, then a tiny bit of blue erupts. These true-blue beauties stand about 24″ tall with a 1-2″ head. There’s a little bit of shade from the maple tree so the stems are leaning to the sun.Their blue color compliments the pink flowers and chartreuse leaves of spirea (Spirea japonica) ‘Goldmound’.
‘Summer Drummer’ allium bulbs were planted in a straight row at the leading edge of the Chakra Garden to create a fence-like barrier. These interesting alliums can reach up to 60″ tall and they bloom a little later (July/August) then the others we grow.An unusually warm fall caused them to produce foliage soon after planting; they should not have emerged until spring. They remained the entire winter under snow cover with droopy, frozen leaves (photo below).
Marking the location of the allium bulbs with landscape flags or another marker makes it easy to locate them and it helps to determine if all of the bulbs sprout. I enjoy seeing the pink flags poking out from under snow in mid-winter as a reminder that there is something wonderful under there to look forward to. A few them reached near 5 feet tall and of 20 bulbs planted in the garden, only 6 showed buds. A deer taste-tested one and must not have enjoyed it 😉 I found it hanging on the stem and the raw onion smell was strong. We haven’t had a problem with deer and rabbits so far but this year, oddly, we did have a few taste testers. It seems the others won’t produce flowers at this point. Possibly they were affected by the early sprouting or most likely, they were immature bulbs. I’ll keep my hopes up for a fabulous display next year. Nature teaches you patience 😉
‘Summer Drummer’ alliums have an interesting habit compared to others grown here. The foliage growth resembles that of a cornstalk with alternating leaves ascending the stem. While most alliums have a tight round bud, ‘Summer Drummer’ has a long, flat, pointy tip extending out from the round bud which lends the look of Pinocchio’s silhouette! Since most of the alliums didn’t grow as tall as planned, we needed to create a barrier so we installed two sections of an antique fence and finished it with a vine topper. Here’s what ‘Summer Drummer’ looks like now in front of the fence. It sure is tall!
I hope to post some photos of ‘Summer Drummer’ in full bloom later in the month.
Alliums not only make great garden additions, they also make good specimens for cut floral arrangements.
When allium flowers have finished their growth cycle, the seed heads can be cut and dried and used for creative projects. What’s not to love about these delightful plants? Order bulbs now for fall and light up your garden next year with these spectacular blossoms, you won’t be disappointed!
Follow this blog for future posts about working along with nature and designing a low-maintenance garden. Happy Summer! Have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July!