Alliums : global beauties

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).

The edible herb : Chives. Allium schoenoprasum

The edible herb : 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.

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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

Iphone March 2014 Brussels & Dublin 029


or orange or red for a bit of dazzle

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with pink for a softer effect,

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or with its complementary colour, yellow, for strong impact.

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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

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  • The statuesque Allium stipitatum ‘Mount Everest‘ is pure white.

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  • The dramatic Allium ‘Globemaster’ stands tall in the border with lovely deep-violet heads.
A. Globemaster with A. Purple Sensation and A, cristophii.

A. Globemaster with A. Purple Sensation and A, cristophii.

Alliums suit all styles of garden, from formal to cottage, traditional to prairie and even in deep pots on a balcony.

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And bees love them!



12 thoughts on “Alliums : global beauties

  1. So pleased you posted about alliums, they are my absolute favs, and so popular with the bees. I’ve noticed ours this year have come and gone quite quickly, mostly because I had to lift them from the ground earlier in the year and stick them in pots and I think they much prefer the ground.
    Beautiful pictures. 🙂


    • Thank you so much Sophie – glad you liked the pictures.
      I love alliums too – last night the bees were all over mine. We’ve had loads of rain but thankfully they’re still upright!


      • We’ll see what happens – been 7 days now and no sprouts, but I didn’t plant at the right phase of the moon AND I think the herbal slow germination plants can take up to 3 weeks to germinate – supposedly, if you plant at the right phase of moon, germination is faster and every year I plan on running my own experiments, but then I get busy and say, to heck with it, just get the seeds in the ground! LOL


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