Showing posts with label Alliums. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alliums. Show all posts

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.

16 Aug 2015

Planting bulbs and alliums

Bulb catalogues are thumping through the letterbox so I'm thinking ahead to next year's garden with alliums on my mind.

I've been stopped dead in my tracks twice this year by the sight of alliums - once by a front garden where hundreds of hollandicum globes grew up through purple bearded iris and geraniums; and once more at the Hampton Court flower show where bulb suppliers, Jacques Armand, had a large and stunning display of alliums from huge to small to pendulous. It was a breath-taking moment that had me reaching for my purse.

While I enthused with the rep on that display about the beauty of these flowers, a chance comment gleaned me an excellent tip about how to grow them.  I'd divulged that the owner of the above-mentioned front garden (being a neighbour of my niece) had given me a dozen of his bulbs, freshly dug from the ground. Not yet knowing quite where to place them, I'd planted them at the bottom of a large container. That's perfect, the rep declared.

And here's the tip:  alliums like a long time to get established before temperatures drop. They're easy to grow but for the best flowers next year, plant your alliums as soon as you can (certainly by September) and bury them deep - 30 centimetres (12 inches) is ideal for the bigger bulbs. (The usual rule of thumb for bulbs applies: bury bulbs at a depth of roughly three times their size.)

They like a fertile but chalky or sandy soil so add sand or grit to the planting hole if your soil is on the heavy side. And plant where they'll get sun. (The irony of that phrase always makes me chuckle, given the vagaries of the British summer!)  They're perennials, spreading fairly quickly, so plant them a good 12 inches apart; the old gentleman who kindly gave me some of his bulbs told me that he'd started his display with one bulb five years ago and his garden was now full of them.

A very good reason to grow alliums is that they follow on from tulips.  My tulips light up the garden in spring and it's a sad day when they start to fade. By planting alliums, I'm anticipating that the garden will transition into early colour in May/June right through to July/August when other perennials will have taken over.  The first to show should be the Nectaroscordum siculum (Sicilian honey garlic) which flowers at the same time as tulips and irises and 'Summer Drummer' is a new bulb that should flower through to August. (Top right in photo below.)

A. hollandicum 'Purple Sensation' (top left) © Crocus,
A.'Summer Drummer (top right) © Jacques Armand
A.'Spider' (bottom left) © Sarah Raven/Jonathan Buckley,
Nectaroscordum siculum (bottom right) ©Unwin seeds
Images not my own. 

So, what will be planted in the garden? All in the above photo. I've a feeling that won't be the end of it though as I'll need more tulips so that the alliums don't clash with the existing ones.

If your soil tends to be a bit claggy, you can also grow alliums in a pot; they'd look lovely growing with Agapanthus or make a little prairie garden by planting with Verbena rigida and a grass such as Stipa tenuissima. I'm told they're fairly windproof too.

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