Spring Clean Up
There are too many useful and beautiful plants to have a favorite, but the allium genus has a special place in my heart. I can't imagine cooking without onions and garlic, two well-known alliums. Their pungent scent is a common characteristic of alliums and is produced by the plant from the sulfur in the ground. Likewise, I can't imagine my landscape without the more ornamental varieties of allium. Their spherical clusters of flowers look like something out of a Dr. Seuss story and add a touch of whimsy and strong vertical lines to the landscape. Pollinators love the flowers. Most alliums are incredibly easy to grow requiring little to no additional watering and minimal fertilizing. Most prefer full sun. Their liabilities are very few, but there are things to keep in mind when selecting and placing alliums. Some allium will self seed when they are happy, which I usually consider a merit but it does depend on the situation. Of course, if you use a pre-emergent, like Preen, then this aspect will not be a problem. As mentioned above, allium do have a strong scent and on a hot day you can smell the onion-y goodness so this may not be the ideal plant near a walkway if that would bother you. But this same pungent scent keeps critters and pests away from them! Finally, like many other bulbs, the leaves of some allium die back as it is in flower. This is an easy enough fix; planting a low growing perennial or annual in front will disguise the dying foliage. And as discussed below, there are alliums that keep their leaves throughout the growing season. Here are a few of my favorite varieties: Allium 'Globemaster' What a statement! Softball sized spheres of light purple flowers held on strong stems 2 ˝ to 3 feet tall. I think the dried flower heads are interesting so I leave them on the plant till autumn. Sterile.
Allium 'Blue Twister' Really cool blue-green corkscrew leaves. Attractive foliage all season long with a nice flower display in summer. At 1 to 1 ˝ ft tall in bloom, it makes a great edger. I have had this in my garden for 15 years and it is thrived with almost no intervention on my part.
Allium cristophii Large starry flower clusters more airy than ‘Globemaster’ and which add a soft quality to the landscape. Especially effective in front of taller plants to provide contrast to the delicate blooms. 1 ˝ to 2 ft tall in bloom.
Allium 'Summer Beauty' Lavender-pink blossoms in mid-summer, standing about 24” tall in bloom. This variety has attractive waxy foliage all season long and the flowers are sterile.
***** Written by: Nicole Gear Horticulturist and Office Manager scott flanagan landscape 2011 – present Illustrations: Google image search