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Growing alliums


by Pippa Greenwood

I couldn't get through the winter without snowdrops, and the prospect of daffodils, heralding spring. But right now, in May, alliums are centre stage.


Purplish pink allium flower headI've always been a great fan of bulbs, in all their shapes and sizes. I couldn't get through the winter without snowdrops, and the prospect of daffodils, heralding spring. But right now, in (a rather cold and wet) May, alliums are centre stage.

It took me a while to find the best spot for them.  Heavy clay isn't really ideal, but I've been blessed with wonderful allium displays that return year after year.

Their dense pom-pom flower heads, composed of numerous purple 'stars', provide an easily accessible source of pollen for bees and hoverflies. If left into into winter, the papery brown seed heads look beautiful when covered in dense frost.

Apart from the addition of extra grit to my heavy soil, keeping my alliums has been easy. Despite frequent bouts of windy weather, they haven't required any support (larger varieties do sometimes need some help, though) and they've needed very little feeding. I just couldn't imagine being without ornamental alliums. And their close relatives garlic, onion, leeks and chives are a staple in my garden!



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Gardeners' World Web User 19/05/2010 at 22:03

I really must try to grow these! Which variety would you recommend?

Gardeners' World Web User 20/05/2010 at 15:10

I fell in love with alliums about 4 years ago while visiting RHS Wisley. As a total rookie gardener then I thought these firework like flowers were out of my league but how wrong I was. As for growing on them on clay I discovered that a small amount of gravel in the bottom of an over large bulb hole (about the size you might dig for potatoes)seems to have done the trick for planting on our heavy clay. I now grow 4 varieties (well 6 if you count chives!) but my favorite by far has to be Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'. It is big enough to be impressive but not too big to be overbearing, give them a whirl.

Gardeners' World Web User 20/05/2010 at 17:20

these are on my wishlist for my garden and it's reassuring to know that, with a little preparation, they should do ok my clay soil.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/05/2010 at 08:25

Alliums give wonderful height but do have tatty foliage which is best concealed Mine happily grow through hardy geraniums.

Gardeners' World Web User 21/05/2010 at 16:17

Leave some of your leeks to flower and you get huge purple heads that dry beautifully. Allium tuberosum is a good white one for the autumn and right now Allium neapolitanum is making a great show, also white but much smaller. One to beware of is Allium triquetrum which spreads like wildfire and has escaped into the hedgerows to the detriment of our native flora. But I agree it is a wonderful family to eat and to look at.

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