Alliums: Nature-Made Sparklers

Allium schubertii Painted Dried alliums sparkler Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and StylistI 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).Pennsylvania Gardener Magazine Garden Writer Sandi Crabtree 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.)Allium globe master sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and StylistPlanting 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.

Alliums globe master sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist

Alliums blooming along with wild cherry trees in spring 2017 at Crabtree Gardens.

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? Alliums globemaster sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist

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.Allium Schubertii Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and SytlistTen bulbs were planted along the front edge of the lowest deck in fall. They were spaced about 18″ apart in a curving row. Allium schubertii Painted Dried alliums sparkler Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist1Their 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!Alliums with Dumortieri daylily sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist1A. schubertii needs room to bloom, so plan before you plant as they can grow large flower heads like this specimen in the photo below.Allium Schubertii Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Sytlist5

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!Alliums schubertii sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist

Allium moly ‘Jeannine’ is a short (10″), yellow flowering allium that has star-like flowers on an open head.Alliums moly Jeaninne yellow sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist1 They are known for self-seeding around the garden.  They make a nice pairing with catmint (Nepeta spp.). Alliums moly Jeaninne yellow sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and StylistI 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.  Alliums azureum blue sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist2These true-blue beauties stand about 24″ tall with a 1-2″ head. Allium azureum blue sparklers Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and StylistThere’s a little bit of shade from the maple tree so the stems are leaning to the sun.Alliums azureum sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and StylistTheir 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.Alliums Summer Drummer sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and StylistAn 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. Alliums Summer Drummer sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist1A 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.Allium bud bitten by deer Crabtree Gardens 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.Alliums summer drummer corn stalk foliage sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist 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!Alliums summer drummer Pinocchio bud foliage sparklers in the gardener Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Stylist 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!

Allium Summer Drummer garden sparkler Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Sytlist

July/August blooming ‘Summer Drummer’ Allium towers over the new fence at the leading edge of the Chakra Garden.

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!

Allium Schubertii Crabtree Gardens Sandi Crabtree Home and Garden Designer and Sytlist4

“Uncle Sam” holds the American flag in the background as this dried and painted Allium schubertii resembles a sparkler shooting sparks of white (patch of Alyssum) onto the ground. 🙂

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!

Sandi

 

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About crabtreegardens

I am a passionate decorator and the head gardener at Crabtree Gardens, LLC, which is a five acre naturalized garden located in Drums, PA. I advocate chemical-free, low maintenance gardening methods and working along with nature. I'm a freelance garden writer and member of GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators.
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4 Responses to Alliums: Nature-Made Sparklers

  1. Apuldor says:

    Wonderful! A highly informative, well illustrated piece concerning these simply beautiful and often spectacular plants. Lovely!

  2. Thank you for such kind words and also for the FB share! I’ve lost track of you but now I’m following your stunning garden work again. There’s a whole year that I’ve somehow missed.

  3. Jean says:

    What a great collection of alliums you have! I have ‘Globemaster’ in my garden, and hope to add A. moly next year. I also love your Hemerocallis dumortieri, a daylily I just discovered and fell in love with at a garden tour a few weeks ago.

  4. Thanks Jean! So nice to hear from you. A. moly is such a sweet addition to the garden. I’ve had Dumortier’s daylily growing in previous gardens and brought it along when I moved here 11 years ago. It’s the first one to bloom in spring.

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