Nectaroscordum of the gods

by James Alexander-Sinclair

While I'm always smitten by the spherical flowers of most alliums [...] I'm particularly fond of the greater subtlety of nectaroscordum.

Allium and nectaroscordum flowersA few weeks ago I wrote about the redesign of part of my garden. It's going well ā€” thank you for asking. One of the plants I mentioned was Nectaroscordum siculum, which I think merits a blog of its own, as it's one of my very favourite plants.

Nectaroscordum grows from a bulb, and is part of the allium (or onion) family. In fact it used to be called Allium bulgaricum until the nomenclaturists stepped in a few years ago. While I'm always smitten by the spherical flowers of most alliums (for example the tennis ball sized flowers of A. 'Purple Sensation', the drumsticks of A. sphaerocephalon or the starry heads of A. christophii), Iā€™m particularly fond of the greater subtlety of nectaroscordum.

The fresh green leaves start appearing in late February - earlier than Allium species. Then they send up tall slender stems (about 1.2m) topped with a tight bud, shaped like a torpedo. Over the next few weeks this bud gets fatter and fatter, while the membrane holding it in gets thinner and more papery. Some of you may have seen the original 1956 Don Siegel version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I usually don't go a bundle on sci-fi (no matter how cheesy) but I vividly remember seeing this film as a midnight movie and it always comes back to me every time I see nectaroscordums ripening.

Soon you can see the outline of folded flowers and eventually they burst free of the constricting pod and arrange themselves into a loose formation of divinely hanging bells. The flowers are slightly greenish with insides the colour of cherry stains. As they fade and dry out they turn, so the seedheads are facing upwards. Even when they have disintegrated they still retain a certain elegance way into autumn.

Don't forget that this week is the Malvern Spring Show. The first flower show of the year takes place at the most beautiful showground in England. Lots of show gardens, hundreds of nurseries, good food and plenty of shopping. This year there is also cookery with Felice Tocchini and a series of garden inspired Fashion Shows. I am there all weekend with Joe Swift ā€” please come and heckle.

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Gardeners' World Web User 07/05/2009 at 20:05

the Malvern Spring Show every year I wish I could go but hay! ho! going to miss it again. naver mind, I'll watch it on the TV again, I hope. glad your garden is doing fine.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/05/2009 at 00:03

Hi I wonder if anyone can help me - I have a pampas grass and would like some advice on how to get rid of it as I have found out that I'm allergic to it

Gardeners' World Web User 08/05/2009 at 20:40

I do love your photographs! thank you for taking and sharing them all

Gardeners' World Web User 09/05/2009 at 11:22

Carolyn - i had the same trouble some years ago. People used to burn the middle of the plant but it still regenerates so I got rid of mine by cutting it down hard and putting glyphosate solution on the new shoots, then digging it out piece by piece. It was hard. I love alliums, and have many. One of the easiest and fragrant and flowering now is Allium Neapolitanum. Allium triquetrum has naturalised and not to be recommended unless you have acres of room away from common ground. Leaving leeks to seed gives you glorious big blue heads and free leeks the following year. The yellow alliums are favourites of mine as well and all alliums keep aphids away from rose bushes.

Gardeners' World Web User 10/05/2009 at 10:12

Help & advice please....4 years ago I planted 2 lilac bushes in different parts of my garden, for 2 years I had a lovely display from both and they appeared to be flourishing, but last year on both bushes part did'nt produce foliage, during the late Autumn I trim back the "dead" section, this year both appear to have died. Both, although a good distance away from, but are situated directly underneath the canopy of huge Yew trees, could these have contributed to my poor lilacs demise.

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