Every year when I watch RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I love to see multiple gold medal award winner, Avon Bulbs’ stand, and especially their display of Alliums. These wondrous orbs fill me with awe and inspiration whenever I see them gently bobbing in a garden, and they are great for bees and butterflies.
Allium bulbs are generally planted in early autumn and will flower the following year, and for a few subsequent years if they are prevented from self-seeding. Some develop seed pods which need removing, to prevent the black seeds escaping, which will create a sea of grass-like seedlings.
Dried Allium christophii – image myhespiridesgarden.wordpress.com
Dried flower heads at the end of the season can be left and look attractive in the garden, or you could cut them to display indoors. Plants can be lifted and divided after the plants have died back. Of course, now that the weather is warmer, you can buy allium plants from garden centres and nurseries, ready to plant out.
These hardy spheres require a sunny location with a well drained soil. Pale coloured alliums in particular really prefer a warm spot in the garden. They do not like being cold or in waterlogged ground. In the springtime feed alliums with a potash rich fertiliser.
Alliums in a mixed border -image thespruce.com
Also known as ornamental onions, these flowers come in a variety of sizes and shades of blue, purple, white and yellow. Depending on their height they look fantastic grown in a mixed border, and they also do very well in pots. Mix equally parts of grit with compost and John Innes number 3. They look stunning in a formal garden or cottage garden as they are so versatile.
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ – image abuzzandaflutter.com
Alliums suffer from the same diseases as onions; onion white rot and downy mildew – but generally they do not suffer from this when planted in a border. Do not plant them in a bed where onions have previously been grown.
When planting alliums in a mixed border, they work really well with Roses, Peonies, Hostas, Ferns, under trees and around shrubs. Small alliums along with Chives look great at the edge of a border. The tallest, sculptural alliums give good focal points to borders and draw the eye around the bed. As alliums have such stiff stems they do not need staking. Growing Alchemilla mollis and low growing hardy Geraniums around them help to hide their foliage as it begins to turn shabby once they start to flower.
Alliums also look fantastic in the vegetable garden, especially planted around fruit bushes. When weaving alliums through a mixed border it is good to plant en masse, though some hybrids can be very expensive, so plant the cheaper varieties when using this method. It is of course cheaper to plant bulbs than buying individual plants, so you can add this to your plan for the autumn, no doubt it will be here before we know it.
Allium ‘Purple Rain’ – image Lokar & Knolar
Some popular varieties that you might like to grow; Allium ‘Purple Rain’ has an open head of intense dark purple. Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ has deep purple spheres that appear just after late flowering Tulips. They fade quickly but are beautiful and give weeks of interest. Allium ‘Ambassador’ has a six inch head of purple stars that flower throughout June and July. They are robust and reliable and do not produce seed.
Allium ‘Mount Everest’ – image dutchgrown.com
Hybrid, Allium ‘Mount Everest’ has white heads that measure 5 inches and grow just under a metre in height. They are often planted in front of Yew as it creates a great backdrop. Allium ‘Gladiator’ is another hybrid that forms a lilac coloured ball, and Allium ‘Firmament’ produces deep purple flowers with a metallic sheen.
Allium ‘Globemaster’ – image gebrvalkering bv
Allium ‘Globemaster’ is a shorter variety with very large heads, they often give a second flush of flowers and their foliage is tidier than others. Allium ‘Giganteum’ reaches over a metre in height, with the purple flower being the size of a grapefruit.
A mix of white and purple Allium ‘Giganteum’ from freshflowersdelivered.co.uk