All for allium

Allium schubertiiSince my last post was about sweet smelling blooms, it seems only fitting that  that this one should be about a plant at the other end of the fragrance spectrum. Don’t get me wrong – I love the smell of onions especially when they’re being sauteed in butter. But it’s safe to say that ornamental onions are not grown for their fragrance. –Unless of course you take into consideration their value as a companion plant: the odor of them is said to repel aphids and other garden pests.

The number one reason we grow ornamental onions is because they’re outstanding. Literally and figuratively. There’s nothing like a star-burst on a stick to change the way you see the whole garden.

Allium 'Ambassador', Rosa 'Belle Story' and delphiniumWe’re really pleased with the ones we chose for the Rose Garden this year. Allium schubertii (above) actually seems to alter the atmosphere within and around its enormous firecracker spray. I can’t really explain, but everything near it (through it) seems slightly color shifted. Schubertii stands only a foot or so off the ground but has a large presence and we’ll save the seed heads for Christmas decorations. The stately Allium ‘Ambassador’ stands at least 4′ tall and they have carried large deep purple globes for a good 4 weeks. We’re also growing chives as companion plants in the Rose Garden and so far we haven’t had any major aphid infestations there…

In the North Garden we chose a combination of alliums pictured in the Scheepers’ catalog. Allium multibulbosum and A. atropurpureum really are gorgeous together. The white one (A. multibulbosum) opened first and is beginning now to fade to green. The dark wine color of A. atropurpureum is a perfect contrast – perfect with the rest of the colors in that garden too. Nectaroscordum siculum ssp. bulgaricum, formerly known as Allium bulgaricum, is one of my very faves even if it’s not officially an allium anymore. It’s on the subtle side – perhaps that’s why its name was changed.

Allium multibulbosum and A. atropurpureumNectaroscordum siculum ssp. bulgaricum

allium seed heads in the peony rowIn the Display Garden, the Allium ‘Globemaster’ and ‘Purple Sensation’ have all faded but the seed heads are still quietly spectacular. A few years ago we planted a row of them within our peony row – which turned out to be a great idea because the peonies hide the alliums’ one drawback, scrunky foliage. We planted Allium albopilosum (a.k.a A. christophii or Star of Persia) to peep over the edge of our stepped-down center bed. It’s another firecracker and shimmers a metallic lavender.

Allium albopilosum - Star of Persia

Allium 'Hair' And finally here’s an ornamental onion only a mother could love. Allium ‘Hair’ is as disheveled as I generally feel. But to my (mother-ish) eye, there are no bad ‘Hair’ days!

Allium 'Hair' and Clematis durandii

Do you grow ornamental onions? Which are your favorites?

5 thoughts on “All for allium

  1. I do… and my favorite are the drumstick alliums, allium sphaerocephalon. But WOW do they “naturalize” well! I pulled out a bunch of them this spring, because the bed just got entirely too thick with alliums–I needed room for my butterfly weeds and such.

    Oh, and I wish that the drumstick alliums had a positive effect on aphids. However, they didn’t seem to convince the aphids to leave my butterfly weeds alone. Boo.

  2. Ambassador is a goodie. I’m glad it comes late; I’m intrigued about schubertii now, though.

  3. I love alliums and am so glad to read about Nectaroscordum siculum ssp. bulgaricum, the bulb formerly formerly known as Allium bulgaricum~It’s on my list of try and see if you like it! I am especially liking Purple Sensation and hope to mass it even more this fall….It’s the perfect color for the Penstemon and Phlox pilosa combo. I am just looking at the Scheepers catalog! gail

  4. I have allium envy! You and Gail made marvelous choices. You know the schubertii is close to my heart, but we don’t have those lovely roses as a backdrop–what a great combination. My favorite of your photos is the ‘Hair’ with that deep blue clematis. It looks like how I feel when I go out with my elegant sister 🙂 Just wish I could see them in person. The man is going to that conf in Providence again, but it’s midweek and I can’t go this time 🙁 But hey, July is coming soon!

    Lynn, I had allium envy when I saw your schubertiis and that’s why we have them now! I’m sorry to miss seeing you here but the Buffalo fling is right around the corner – yikes! (How can it already be the middle of June?) -kris

  5. We inherited somewhat of a garden when we moved to Barrington 4 years ago. I’ve been trying to identify what I now see is AlliumHair thanks to your post. Unfortunately, I brought a drawing of it to a local nursery last week and the gentleman there told me it was a wild onion and I should pull them all out before they take over the yard. So I did. And now I see that you have a soft spot for them. I wish I had kept them. I’m new to gardening and constantly learning…Thanks for this blog. I’m also a new member of Blithewold and am enjoying reading this. – Kira

    Kira, Welcome to the neighborhood! If it makes you feel any better, I weeded a bunch of ‘Hair’ out of my own garden thinking they were onion grass (I only planted them last fall – you’d think I’d remember where). And your nurseryman was right in a way – they do increase… But I love them anyway! Please introduce yourself to us the next time you come through. -kris

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