Know your onions, especially the ornamental ones!
Mediterranean Gardening by Lorraine Cavanagh I always think that alliums suffer with their common name – ornamental onion. It just doesnt´ inspire desire, but it should! There are very few plants that can add such sparkle, elegance, and longevity of flowering in a garden yet occupy so little space. With over 700 species, they come in all forms – oval, spherical, globular and the latest with crazy dreadlock hairstyles! They are pure statuesque floral art and with a great palette of colours, variety of heights and bloom time, you’ve just got to get some into your life.
It was back in the late 1800’s that these curiosities of the plant world started to attract real attention. Russian botanists began collecting some of the spectacular alliums from Central Asia and introducing them to horticulturalists in the Imperial Botanical Garden of St. Petersburg. It was the start of a subdued passion throughout the world, largely unrecognised by the masses. It has probably been the majestic displays of alliums at the Chelsea Flower Show; above all, that has introduced them to a wider public. And, once tried, I promise you, you’ll be hooked!
They are tough and drought tolerant plants, preferring to be grown on the dry side and loving sunshine – sounds good, doesnt´ it? Alliums are natives of dry, sandy soils with good drainage; many are from Eastern Europe, Turkey and the lands that were once known as Persia. They have no serious disease or insect problems and they will even deter deer, voles, moles, chipmunks, rodents and rabbits! I’m not so sure about goats and wild boar! However, they will attract bees and butterflies. Extremely hardy, many can survive as low as -30C. They will multiply naturally, so they can just be left to get on with it.
Their rounded flowers form great contrasts amongst more mixed plantings, spiked flowers, huge leaves etc. and they are excellent as cut flowers or the dried seedpods make great Christmas decorations.
Even crammed gardens can take some alliums as they dont´ need much space. The smaller flowerers look lovely planted ‘en masse’ forming lovely drifts; try 10cm or 15cm spacing. Larger varieties can be planted in small groups of three or five, giving them more space to develop their stunning heads. Try a spacing of 30cm apart for most, and up to 45cm apart for the true giants. A good rule of thumb when planting is that bulbs should be planted at least twice the depth of the bulb and three times the width of the bulb for spacing. Long known as the place to watch spring and autumn passage of storks and raptors as they take the short journey to and from Africa, this is also a passing point for many seabirds, including Cory’s and Balearic Shearwater. Industrial pollution is a threat here, and proliferating wind-farms provide an unwelcome obstacle to passing raptors.
Laguna de Gallocanta: Most of you will know this as the place where vast numbers of Common Cranes gather in November, having crossed the Pyrenees on their way south. Here contamination and excessive extraction of water for In warm climates like ours, it always pays to plant a little deeper and apply a high potash feed to help develop good roots and bulbs. If planting in containers try and plant to the same depth, though spacings can be less to create a full-looking pot. Use a good quality compost and consider forming lasagne layers using different varieties in layers, starting with the largest bulbs at the bottom.
Allium caeruleum is a lovely azure blue, one of the few true blues. Its flowers are much smaller, like golf balls, but abundantly produced and totally lovely. Half page colour photos, cultivation, propagation and pruning advice. Three indexes. Latin, English and Spanish. Cross reference section Available at most bookshops or email firstname.lastname@example.org irrigation purposes is a major threat, as water levels drop annually.
Allium christophii, known as the Star of Persia for its huge starry metallic amethyst flowers sometimes as much as 30cm across. It is particularly suited to dry conditions.
Allium Eros, named after the Greek god of love, this is a delightful allium bearing pink/ lilac domed flower heads to 10cm across. Clumping and spreading in the most charming manner.
Allium Gladiator is one of the tallest with big lavender mop-heads up to 15cm across atop 1,5m stems – it’s striking and sweet smelling too.
Allium vineale ‘Hair’ Newish, bizarre and crazy, this is the bad-hair-day allium! Very different from the usual pompom shapes, the centre is purple surrounded by erratic green hair-like tendrils.
We have all of these alliums in stock and lots of other great bulbs for spring flowering. Next week I’ll tell you about more of them. Meanwhile, check out our webpage for details of bulbs in stock. The plains of Trujillo/Cáceres: A great area for Great Bustard, sandgrouse and other ‘steppe’ species. Threatened by the urban spread of the city of Cáceres, and the proliferation of electricity cables and pylons, a hazard for low-flying birds and perching raptors alike.
The above is no more than a taste of the problems faced by our wildlife – more topical is the threat posed by the raging fires in Galicia and Asturias – not to mention the environs of the Coto Doñana. Do your bit and join the SEO (Sociedad Española de Ornitología) – their website is www.seo.org.
R-C Pochard If you have any observations or queries, you can email me at email@example.com