In Praise of Alliums

Jun 13, 2016 | Gardens

Last May I had the pleasure of being in P. Allen Smith’s gardens at Moss Mountain. (Bucket list advice: attend a workshop or go on one of his open days. His gardens are a must-see experience, and Little Rock is a must-visit location. GO.) Several of his flower gardens contained alliums in full flower or interesting seed pods, and I was immediately smitten with a case of plant lust.

How can you see this and at Moss Mountain and not want to plant Allium bulbs?

How can you see this and at Moss Mountain and not want to plant Allium bulbs?

 

So as soon as I got home I went on Brent and Becky’s Bulbs website and ordered several varieties. That’s the key with alliums, I’ve found. You have to order them in the spring so that in the fall, once you’ve forgotten all about allium and you’re thinking about other plants, they automatically arrive in the mail. Which was what happened to me. I ordered the bulbs in early summer and they came at the perfect time for planting in the fall. Now that they’re in flower in my gardens, I’m congratulating myself for planting them.

The Allium schubertii are short and amusing. "Sputnik!" I think, every time I pass them. They are straight out of an early 1960's graphic design studio.

The Allium schubertii are short and amusing. “Sputnik!” I think, every time I pass them. They are straight out of an early 1960’s graphic design studio.

 

I ordered ‘White Giant,’ ‘Ambassador,’ A. schubertii, and ‘Early Emperor.’  I’m thinking that this year I might put in another order for ‘Firmament’ and ‘Purple Sensation.’

'White Giant' has been spectacular in my front garden for two weeks, and now as it fades to green the purple 'Ambassador' are joining the party.

‘White Giant’ has been spectacular in my front garden for two weeks, and now as it fades to green the purple ‘Ambassador’ are joining the party.

Here’s what you need to know about Allium plants: the foliage starts to brown and die down even before the flowers open completely. So the best thing to do is to plant them in and among other perennials that will hide, or distract, from the declining foliage that’s under these magical flowers. Thanks to Allen Smith and Brent and Becky Heath, I’m smiling every time I look at my gardens right now.

2 Comments

  1. Verna Sadowski

    C.L.,
    Have you found that voles & chipmunks eat your alliums? If so, what is your solution? To cage them as you plant? I’d hate to invest lots of $$, & have them all be eaten.

    Reply
    • CL Fornari

      I have not had this problem at all. we have a few voles around but (so far) they have not bothered my alliums, tulips or daffs. But if you have had a vole problem in the past what I’d do is to coat the bulbs with cayenne pepper when I plant, and water them in well afterwards.

      Reply

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