Thursday, July 31, 2008
I am a great fan of alliums, the lovely ornamental onions. Most gardeners are familiar with the spring and early summer flowering bulbs. They emerge as great purple or white balls of tiny flowers and then their foliage dies away like daffodil and tulips foliage.
Although I have read that only people eat onions I have found that many of my alliums disappear after a few years. I don't know if they are dinner for my underground neighbors or the conditions in my garden don't meet their long term needs.
Luckily two of my favorites are very long lived. Allium Globemaster is a hybrid cross of A. Christophii and A. elatum. It is a huge allium with a 10" ball of little purple flowers that can soar 3 feet tall. Although it is expensive you only need a few for a spectacular display, a display that will come back year after year. Plus, the flowers are sterile so they last and last in the garden or in a vase, keeping there color for about a month.
But for a lasting dried flower they can't compare to their parent species, allium christophii. These huge silvery balls dry to spectacular dried flowers that last for years in a dried arrangement. A. christophii, alas, tends to disappear from my garden over time.
The alliums in the photographs are allium tanguticum, a less well know but very long lived species. The alliums I discribed earlier are classified as SUDS, summer-dormant species. As noted they act like typical bulbs and their foliage dies back after they flower. A. tanguticum is a SUTS, a summer thriving species. It does not flowers until July and the foliage stays pretty and green all season. It is a wonderful perennial with the clumps getter larger and larger each year. I think this can occasionally be purchased in pots at nurseries. I buy mine from the McClure & Zimmerman bulb catalogue, http://www.mzbulb.com/ and plant it in the fall at the same time as tulips and daffodils. This is not a huge allium, just a foot or so high but with dozens and dozens of pretty purple balls.
The Perennial Gardener by Frederick McGourty
A wonderfully informative and entertaining gardening book. It has a very detailed and informative chapter about alliums, SUDS and SUTS.
McClure & Zimmerman
Quality Flowerbulb Brokers
An excellent and reliable source for bulbs including many rarities.
I am in love with Jennifer Morris's jewelry. (Please note if my husband is reading this, something to remember for Christmas) She makes the beads from polymer clay and each is a tiny work of floral art. Esquisite. You can see her jewelry at http://www.jennifermorrisbeads.etsy.com/.