An Allium for Every Garden

– Posted in: Garden Design

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Having a perennial garden that blooms from spring to fall is every gardener’s dream, but having continuous color can be a lifetime challenge for even the experienced gardener. One of the most difficult bloom time gaps in the parade of flowers is often in late spring, after tulips dropped their petals and peonies are at their max bud. This drought of blooms can be miniscule in weeks, but last for long stretches when you’re eager for the flowers of spring after a long, cold winter.

There is a solution for the garden and it comes in bulb form! Alliums! These adaptable, trouble-free plants are gaining popularity and creating quite the buzz due to 2016 being the Year of the Allium. It is easy to see why! Not only do they come in non-ball shapes, but also have more colors than purple that bloom throughout the spring and summer months. Once you start growing them, you’re bound to not stop and keep adding more and more to your collection. Let’s take a look at the options when it comes to this amazing, carefree flower bulb.

If this is your first go with alliums, begin with the most popular and earliest-blooming variety called Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’. The raspberry-purple flower heads measure 3 to 4” in diameter and blossoms last up to 2 weeks in the garden. This variety is easy to interplant among other perennials and will multiple over time.

Next up in the bloom cycle are the bigheaded alliums including ‘Gladiator’, ‘His Excellency’ and ‘Globemaster’. If you’re looking for BIG blooms, then these are your alliums. Some blossoms can reach the size of bowling balls and measure in at 5 to 10 inches across on small child height (3 to 4 feet) stems. These varieties add drama and artistic flare to your garden by creating a vertical element in the landscape.

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Yes, there are alliums that are not purple and they are purely elegant. ‘Mount Everest’ has snowy white, perfectly round globes that are long-lived and carefree.

Allium nigrum (Black Onion) is quite the wrong name for this dependable, white-flowering heirloom. This tall and graceful beauty has glistening white domes of six-petaled florets swaying in the wind on sturdy stems.

Last, but not least, Allium ‘Graceful’ – who’s flowers are absolutely amazing when viewed up close. In the center of each starry pale-blush floret stands a gorgeous violet stamen, which creates the most lovely contrast. That is not it…magenta-colored stems provide an additional bonus to this stellar choice for the perennial garden or cut flower border.

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And the colors don’t stop there, moving on to the deep maroon varieties that sing in the garden.

Allium atropurpureum (purple-flowered onion) is an heirloom variety that creates a dramatic color statement and striking structure in the garden. For those that plant these beauties for their cut flower appeal, it is pleasing to know this variety has long vase life.

Star of Persia (A. christophii) is a magnificient dome of sparkling little florets that could fill the night sky. These enormous, violet-pink globes have a silvery sheen when viewed in person. Ideal for planting where the flowers can be admired up close.

Allium sphaerocephalon ‘Drumstick’ hits the spot for gardeners looking for the unusual. This two-toned, egg-shaped allium sports maroon on top and green on the bottom. Florets open slowly from the top down and create a flower show for weeks.

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Adding Alliums to the garden is very easy due to their flower color and shape, but here is a bloom chart to help you to fill those gaps in your garden to have continuous bloom throughout the seasons.

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To learn more about Year of the Allium promoted by the National Gardening Bureau, read here.

Looking for help creating an allium inspired landscape? Here are two gorgeous designs, Bountiful Blooms and Daring Forms, created by APLD award-winning designer, Nick McCullough.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
8 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Laura ~ Raise Your garden September 20, 2016, 10:29 am

I love alliums. They are so photogenic. And i did think they were all purple~

Hilary September 20, 2016, 12:02 pm

Just picked up some purple sensation allium today! Cant wait to get them in the ground!

Fran Sorin September 20, 2016, 3:25 pm

Laura- Although purple alliums are the most striking, I have used white and a very soft pink in my garden, and they are divine. Enjoy! Fran

Fran Sorin September 20, 2016, 3:26 pm

Hilary,

Bravo! My philosophy about allium is that you can never have too many. They are the gift that just keep on giving. Enjoy digging them into their new home! Fran

Daniel Tyrrell September 20, 2016, 6:36 pm

I love these plants but always have trouble with them,is there a fool proof hack to growing them successfully in Melbourne.

Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening September 20, 2016, 6:52 pm

Allium are a wonderful addition to the landscape,especially when planted in mass among other lower growing perennials. My favorites are Allium Globemaster and Mont Blanc and I can certainly relate to why they are the plant for 2016…simply spectacular!

Cathy September 21, 2016, 10:47 am

Had these growing throughout our perennial beds and herb garden. They are so majestic! Thanks for the most comprehensive guide I’ve seen… can’t wait to have another garden… they will be well-represented when we do. 😉

Mary Brady September 21, 2016, 10:48 am

You covered quite a few of them committed two our our favorites allium Millenium which blooms in the heat of summer July/August here in N.e.Oh and allium senescens glaucum which blooms the lates right now in the garden it also is short, has corkscrew blue foliage. Both varieties have eatible foliage and are deer resistant. You didn’t mention the allium herbs chives both the traditional schoenoprasum and the garlic . Or were they mentioned in an earlier article which I didn’t see?