At this time of year, I love to see the purple heads of Alliums introducing some fizz to the borders whilst we wait for the drama of perennials to come.Their tall heads sway in the breeze but remain remarkably upright adding much needed height.
The Allium family encompasses the edible shallots and onions (Allium cepa), garlic (Allium sativum) and chives (Allium schoenoprasum).
But the Alliums we plant in our flower borders are often referred to as “ornamental onions”. They are easy to grow bulbs, planted deeply in the autumn in well-drained soil; they do not require much space, their heads rising up on strong stems, ‘scapes’, held aloft above the emerging perennials. They are drought-tolerant and come in a range of sizes and shades – purple, white, blue (Allium caeruleum) and yellow (Allium moly).
They are often the mainstay in early summer Show Gardens – in 2014 purple was certainly the colour of choice at the Chelsea Flower Show – as they are showy, easy, and flower in early summer.
Purple is certainly my colour of choice, but it can look a bit flat and dead on its own.
Try mixing it with lime-green Euphorbias
or orange or red for a bit of dazzle
with pink for a softer effect,
or with its complementary colour, yellow, for strong impact.
Here are some popular cultivars :
- The well known Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’, a lovely rich purple with smaller heads.
- Look closely at Allium cristophii and you will see an explosion of six-pointed stars
- The statuesque Allium stipitatum ‘Mount Everest‘ is pure white.
- The dramatic Allium ‘Globemaster’ stands tall in the border with lovely deep-violet heads.
Alliums suit all styles of garden, from formal to cottage, traditional to prairie and even in deep pots on a balcony.
And bees love them!