Monday, December 21, 2009

Allium Allegiance


Onion, leek, chive, and garlic are all important members of the edible allium family characterized by their pungent odor and taste.  While being useful additions to most vegetable and herb gardens, many allium are used in the ornamental garden.  The ornamental part of the clever allium grows from a bulb, (the part we eat, think of the onion) is actually a modified stem and underground food storage device.  Easy to plant, often as a bulb to plant in the autumn, and care for, ornamental onion doesn't have many soil requirements, only that it is well drained.  A perfect plant for the water-conscious gardener (as all gardeners should be), place in a dry, sunny, and hot location.  Many varieties, including the Allium glaucum scenescence (pictured below), work well in difficult areas around pavement where temperatures can soar, and in gravelly low fertility soil.  No need to fertilize this tough plant. 


The large pom-pom like alliums are very dramatic in the garden.  Blooming later than many other bulbs, but before many perennials, allium fill a niche for the ever-blooming perennial border. 

The drumstick allium (allium sphaerocephalon), like all alliums, is popular with butterflies and other pollinators.  A. sphaerocephalon will naturalize nicely in the back of the border.

Planted en masse as above, ornamental onions
provide a stunning display, but can also be used
more conservatively to add texture, contrast       and architecture to the border.        

                                                                              

I love the little Allium glaucum senescence with  it's lavender colored pom poms and silvery foliage.
This plant makes a great low hedge in a sunny dry location. Try in combination with other perennials and annuals. Winter interest?  Covered.  The dried seed heads stand up well in snow and rain and provide bird forage.

Some of the native alliums will naturalize and get a bit out of control in the garden.  Reserve for areas where this is okay, as to not frustrate the gardener.    

1 comment:

Cindee said...

One of my favorite bulbs!
Cindee