Here in Dublin, we’re at least a week behind most other towns regarding the emergence of spring so I have to be satisfied with some of the earliest green things to pop up. Crocus were lovely, daffodils are showing buds, Camassia (commonly known as wild hyacinth) is looking strong too. My biggest spring pleasure thus far is the multitude of Allium I’ve got coming up. Allium is in the same genus as onion, garlic, scallions and chives. Allium is the Latin word for garlic. Well, I love garlic and onions and boy, do I love beautiful allium in my perennial gardens!
If you’ve grown chives and can visualize their little balls of bloom hovering above pointy foliage, just imagine those flower heads even bigger and coming in lots of colors and forms. Allium typically has strappy foliage that begins to emerge in early spring… giving way to terrific balls of florets late spring and early summer. The balls of bloom can be anywhere from 1” diameter to 10” and they make terrific “see-through” plants… meaning they are a wonderful accent bloom to mix among other perennials. In fact, planting allium between other more fully branching plants is advised because most allium’s foliage disappears as it goes into summer dormancy.
Last fall, I went on an allium buying binge and got a big combination bulk order from John Scheepers, a mail order nursery that specializes in bulbs to be planted in the fall. I had some allium already but the selection of varieties isn’t always great in garden centers. You can usually find Drumstick, Purple Sensation, Gladiator and Globemaster but that’s about it. Color range is somewhat limited to purples and whites but there’s some shading variations in the purples and there’s some neat white varieties with little green accents in the individual florets. So, when my order arrived in October, I spent an entire afternoon planting the bulbs (which are naturally disease and rodent resistant) throughout my three perennial gardens. I can’t wait to see what they’ll add to the landscape!
Alliums are extremely easy perennials. Hardy in zones 4-10, most come in bulb form but a few grow from rhizomes… similar to bearded iris or perennial geraniums. You pop them in the ground at about triple their bulb size before the ground freezes in the fall and that’s it! The plants grow very quickly and, including their flowers on their strong stalks, they reach anywhere from 1’ to 4’ height. No particular feeding necessary though adding a bit of all-purpose fertilizer just as the flower buds begin to show will help them replenish their bulbs for next year’s performance. I usually go with the purple varieties but in this order, I selected two white varieties… Nigrum and White Giant. White Giant rivals its purple sister, Globemaster, with it’s 6-8” white balls.
I also tried two rhizomatous varieties: Medusa and Millenium. I’m trying to replicate some gorgeous, later-blooming varieties I’ve noticed in downtown Peterborough. Both of these varieties tend to hold on to their foliage even after bloom and grow in neat clumps. Instead of the usual May/June bloom time, these two will bloom in July/August. Medusa has somewhat corkscrew foliage in a pretty blue-green shade. All in all, I’m extremely excited to see what the dozens of allium add to the landscape here in Dublin. I’ll be sure to share a photo or two throughout the season.