10 May 2017

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: It's all about the alliums

May is ...

all about the alliums.  I first wanted more alliums in the veg garden when some end of season white onions flowered and were subsequently smothered in bees busily harvesting pollen in the summer sunshine.

If you don't mind the smell of onions, alliums are such a great flower to have in the garden. They're usually out by the end of May* providing a valuable source of food to lure bees in to the veg patch to pollinate crops; they lightly self seed so are brilliant value for money; they're unfussy, needing only a sunny spot and relatively free draining soil; they're great in containers, superb as a cut flower and they're (mostly) purple - my favourite colour!

Some alliums, such as garlic, chives, leeks and onions are edible while ornamental alliums are not. Those are for show and, after the flowers fade, leave gorgeous seed heads that look fab in the garden (or indoors at Christmas). Did you know that leeks that have become too woody to eat at the end of winter can do double duty as flowers? Alan Titchmarsh advises to dig them up, trim back the foliage and plant them in the flower border; they'll soon produce towering blooms.

I bought my first ornamental alliums (A. sphaerocephalon and A. hollandicum) at RHS Hampton Court flower show a couple of years ago and was advised to plant the bulbs by August to get them off to a good start. They'll start to form roots and be more able to survive winter.  This year they're back on my shopping list as I want more; they'll look fantastic growing near my mum's agapanthus and Iris in the middle garden. I might go for the showstopping huge alliums, Globemaster, but there's a huge range these days, I just have to remain calm in the face of all those beautiful choices.




Ornamental tiny white allium growing next to Verbena bonariensis

Wild garlic (Allium ursinum) among Ajuga reptans, strawberries, foxgloves and day lilies



 * (My ornamental alliums are slightly early this year, as with everything else.)

RHS Hampton Court Flower Show is on from 4th - 9th July this year.

14 comments:

  1. Great tip about flowering leeks. I love alliums too, although I don't have any fancy ones. I do love seeing the bees all over the chives every year though, and they're always so pretty. And really hardy - I have my clump shoved in a shady corner with their feet almost in concrete, just a hint of soil, which gets sodden in winter. And yet they never let me down. I have a Welsh onion which is a bit of an unattractive beast. The flowers aren't pretty and the leaves are so enormous they fall over after a bit. I shall give it another year and see if I like it any more, but its days may be numbered. CJ xx

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    1. I'm glad you mentioned the tumbledown antics of Welsh onions, Claire - I have some seeds and was going to grow some in the veg patch. However, I like the plants in the patch to behave themselves so I might have to rethink that one! (Maybe they wouldn't appear too badly behaved up at the allotment ... !) Chives are wonderful aren't they - so hardy and reliable. The flowers are nice in salads if you break up the florets. C xx

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  2. Good post and lovely pictures. If I had more space they'd be a flower that I'd grow. xx

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    1. I don't think they take up much space, Flighty, as the stems are very slender. Perhaps you could have just a couple by your shed? I find them immensely cheerful! x

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  3. Caro, lovely photos. Hadn't thought of the leeks in the border garden - I have few stragglers that don't look like they'll even be really edible this year - will move!!! I planted 50 of the Sch.... (maroon head) alliums last year - should I be seeing a shoot by now......???? x

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    1. Thanks, Simone, glad you liked the pics! I went out just after it had rained heavily to get most of them. Re your alliums, do you think they might be A. sphaerocephalon - the drumstick alliums, smaller than most? If yes, they're later to flower, usually July so you won't see any shoots yet. Schoenoprasum alliums are another name for chives which should be coming into flower now. (Bearing in mind it's warmer in the south than Buxton!) Hope that helps! Cx

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  4. I will go plant out my leeks that still linger from last year. They don't do well here for some reason...be good to see the flowers. Chives do well, they are a herb that loves our sandy, free draining soil.xxx

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    1. If chives do well, it stand to reason you have a good chance of getting leek flowers. If not, we'll blame Alan Titchmarsh! Hope you'll blog about it if it works! xx

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  5. We have two extremes size wise of alliums - the diminutive tulbaghia Purple Eye and the impressive Christophii.

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    1. I saw Christophii yesterday when I visited Waterperry gardens in Oxfordshire - they're stunning. They were planted among clumps of perennials - do they stand up if not supported, I wonder?

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    2. Ours are unsupported and grow in tubs. They are in bud at the moment.

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    3. Ah, thanks, Sue. That gives me an idea of where I can grow them if I manage to pick some up this summer.

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  6. Lovely to see your alliums in flower. I have planted quite a number of different ones this year. We too have one leek that we have left to flower. Sarah x

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    1. Oh, well done, Sarah. I'd love to have a lot more alliums, they're so impressive planted together. There's a front garden in Oxfordshire that I always admire as the alliums (Hollandicum, I think) are planted among purple Iris - It's an amazing sight in full bloom! Now that I have the middle garden to plant up, I think more alliums is where my money will be spent this year. Let me know how you get on with the flowering leek, I want to see if the theory works! Caro x

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Caro x

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