Ciscoe Morris returns with more gardening expertise! Today he shows us how to care for Allium in our gardens.
Alliums (ornamental onions) are versatile, yet under used, bulbs for the sunny border. They're incredibly easy to grow, hardy as a rock, disdained by deer and rodents, have few if any insect pests, deer and rabbits don't eat them, and add fantastic form, color and texture to your summer garden. Among the standouts is an old time favorite, A. 'Purple Sensation'. Known as Persian onion, this reliable Allium blooms in May/June and features baseball-sized, dark-purple globes on sturdy tall stems. The colorful flowers appear to be floating in air as they peek out between neighboring perennials and shrubs in the mixed border.
Newly introduced Allium 'Globemaster' features globe shaped Softball sized flower heads packed with hundreds of violet-purple blossoms on sturdy 4-foot tall stems. It looks great tucked between plants to hide the less than attractive stalks while allowing the huge flowers to float like purple UFO's above neighboring foliage. Two Alliums that are a must for flower size and form are A. chistophii and A. shubertii. Known as the Star of Persia, the 12 inch stalks of A. chistophii are crowned with enormous 8-12 inch round flower heads that appear like amethyst pink starbursts packed with hundreds of individual flowers within. The long lasting flowers look fantastic coming up through ornamental grasses and low growing perennials. The real champ, however, is the bizarre yet spectacular A. shubertii. Each stalk is topped with a gargantuan, basketball sized flower head of metallic-purple flowering stems all blooming at varying lengths, giving it the look of a firework frozen in mid-explosion. Give it an open location near a walkway where its incredible construction and size can be appreciated. My hands down new favorite ornamental onion is 'Hair Allium. This unique Allium will produce unique hairy flowers. 'Hair' displays hairy purple and green strands above attractive broad, glaucous leaves. You can't look at the flower without thinking of Phyllis Diller on a really bad hair day.
Although most folks plant Alliums as bulbs in fall, they are often available potted up and ready for planting in spring. Work in a shot of alfalfa meal or an organic flower food when planting, and again around the crown when foliage first appears, and at full bloom to help the plant build strength, and hopefully spread to form colonies. Alliums require light-shade to full-sun, a rich well-drained soil and regular watering, especially while in bloom, however it's best to cut back on watering once the foliage begins to yellow. Divide only if flowering declines, a sign that the colony is becoming crowded. Alliums bloom in early June. They make great cut flowers for bouquets, and add beauty and spiky form in the perennial garden. For an explosion of color that will amaze the tweetle out of your neighbors, spray paint the flowers of chistophii and shubertii bright red after they dry in the garden.
Everyone who sees them will think they're from outer space.