I do tend to go Allium crazy in June and July in my garden. Purple heads of perfectly round spheres hold the explosions of tiny flowers as if in suspended animation.
They stand proudly above the surrounding foliage, shining in the sunlight. My favourite and most prolific is Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’. It has always proved to be a strong and reliable grower and as I leave the seed heads on the maturer bulbs, they are slowly but cheerfully starting to take over! Ornamental Alliums are in fact closely related to the edible onion. The flowers of the bulb appear in an array of colours from pearly whites, to buttery yellow, silvery pinks to deep plum purples. Allium ‘Mount Everest’ in its full glory with the globes catching the sun
Allium x hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ beginning to open
They take hardly any space to grow and are shown to their best when planted with other plants such as grasses and veronicastrum. They do appear as happy and at home in formal planting as they do in the vegetable plot, always an interest and curio. Over the years I have encouraged clients to leave the faded flowers, for as the summer progresses these star like explosions pale to a wonderful ivory straw colour and add yet another dimension to the autumn border by dying gracefully!
I’m always mortified when I lose seed heads to marauding dogs or little children’s hands that will pluck out the stems to use as fairy wands, then I breath and remember that I need to get out more!
Now is the perfect time to order your bulbs, ready to plant in the early autumn. Here are a few tips to follow when planting. As a rule alliums like free draining soil, this is essential as water logging will cause the bulb to rot. Choose a sunny position and plant at a depth that is twice the depth of the bulb as a guide. You will find the leaves come up long before the flower spike emerges, then as the leaves start to die back they will come into bloom.
It’s always a good idea to find out about a plant’s origins. For instance ‘cristophii’ is a native of Turkey and Iran so conditions are hot and dry! So it follows that that is what they would require in our own gardens. I’ve found this back referencing such an essential part of my gardening and as a result get much better growing results from my plants.
As you can imagine when I do sit down to order my new bulbs, it’s a job that takes me ages. I’m constantly side tracked into finding more and more unusual varieties and as ever in fear of over indulging!
Over the years I have found myself having firm favourites, not only for their appearance but also their reliability. Here are a few I wouldn’t be without.
Allium x hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’
Allium ‘Mount Everest’
Where to buy