Amazing Alliums

I am an Allium addict!

Living in London without a garden, Alliums and Sea holly’s (Eryngiums) are what I dreamed about one day growing……………………..

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Dreaming Globes………………

Alliums stand for ages in a vase as a cut flower and give the late spring, early summer garden a punch like nothing else.IMG_7193

Moving to Swan Cottage allowed me to really indulge. I have trialed every variety I can lay my hands on.

The Results

If you have room for only one variety then it has to be Purple Sensation!

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Purple Sensation

When I first fell in love with this plant genus at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show they cost a fortune!

Happily this is no longer so and you can pick up packs of bulbs for as little as £1.

If you have the room, plant at least 15 bulbs together. But be careful to space wider than the bulb suggests to cater for the size of the flower heads, about 10-15cm apart for Purple Sensation.

 

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Globemaster

If budget and space allows my next best Allium is the ‘Globemaster’ (shown waiting in bud above). This flowers much later in early July and is a whopper. Truly magnificent!

They are more expensive, but you need less of them, just 3 planted among the fading heads of ‘Purple Sensation’ will still give you a wow! Even now I keep adding topping up 3 more slowly each year. Plant 30cm apart.

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Schubertii
Allium ‘Schubertii’ has a huge head which is much more airy than other Alliums and on a much shorter stem. I prefer this variety to ‘Spider’ which is very similar but I find need staking. Plant 20cm apart.
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Cristophii
Allium ‘Cristophii’ bridges the gap between the earlier ‘Purple Sensation’ and the late ‘Globemaster’. The heads look just like a sparkler! In recent years prices have come right down and this is now a very affordable bulb. This looks great planted with Allium ‘Gladiator’ which is a good alternative to ‘Globemaster’.

Planting

Alliums are a worthwhile investment and careful planting will make them perennial bulking up year on year.

On heavy soil add a layer of grit in the bottom to the planting hole, they won’t like sitting in wet waterlogged soil.

My soil is quite poor so I give all my spring-flowering bulbs a high potash feed in the early spring.

They look wonderful planted with Foxgloves which also disguise the leaves which, by the time the bulb flowers can look a little scruffy.

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Wild Foxgloves from collected seed

 

While we are talking of companion plants there is no better Tulip than ‘Blue Parrot’ which is the exact same colour as the Alliums and flowers late April early May coinciding with the first of the globes. Knockout!

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Container Growing

Alliums are great container plants that can be whisked into view as they look their best and away again to die down and store food for next year (see Tulip Fever)

After extensive trials I have found its best not to mix Alliums with other spring bulbs in pots. By the time the Alliums start to flower the earlier bulbs are well past their best (dying foliage making an unattractive display).

If planting in pots – water regularly and give them a good slosh of Tomato or seaweed feed.  Summer is round the corner and the warm spring sunshine can dry pots in a heartbeat.

The Best of the Rest

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Early Emperor
 Allium ‘Early Emperor’ flowers 2 weeks earlier for me than any of the others so great for impatient gardeners.
I have mine planted close to the house so I can admire it from the Kitchen window!
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Hyacinth Purple Sensation
In the trials Allium stipitatum ‘Violet Beauty’ had scent, which is unusual in Alliums and looked particularly wonderful under planted with Hyacinth ‘Purple Sensation’.
The best of the Whites are Allium ‘Nigrum’ and Allium ‘Mount Everest’.
Sweet Rocket SC

For smaller flowers the pale pink ‘Unifolium’ is my favourite. It flowers for ages and looks wonderful in bouquets and spring arrangements. For white flowers try ‘Cowanii’ or ‘Graceful’.

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Unifolium , Cristophii & Graceful

 

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This is not an exhaustive list just the bulbs that have performed the best for me over the past 8 years and I am still learning. New Miami is to trial this year.
It looks like just the thing I am missing in my current displays!!
Sarah Raven has a lovely selection that you will see reflected in my photographs – most of mine have come from her over the years. I can’t resist her wonderful catalogues.
Dobbies Garden Centres have an astonishing deal on Allium Mount Everest with large bags of 15 bulbs for £6.99 and then on 3 for 2! I admit to investing wisely last year!
Now is the time for buying and planting so go on, give them a try……………

 

 

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