For a dif­fer­ent bulb, try plant­ing al­li­ums

The Progress-Index - At Home - - NEWS - SARAH WOLFE

Beau­ti­ful and sturdy with a flair for the dra­matic, al­li­ums are a grace­ful way to add color and ar­chi­tec­tural di­men­sion to your gar­den.

With large globes of tiny white, pur­ple, yel­low or blue flow­ers that rise from bulbs on slen­der green stems as high as 4 feet tall, they look like gi­ant, fluffy lol­lipops — some­thing Willy Wonka would have planted in the Choco­late Fac­tory gar­den.

Most bloom in late spring or early sum­mer, so they fill the gap be­tween spring bulbs and sum­mer peren­ni­als.

They’re also easy to grow, and re­sis­tant to deer and many other pests.

“For peo­ple who are con­sid­er­ing plant­ing them, my ad­vice is, don’t think twice. Do it,” says Michaela Lica But­ler, a 38-year-old mother and gar­dener in Sch­we­ich, Ger­many, who has planted the gi­ant, pur­ple Globe­mas­ter al­lium for years.


While many peo­ple think of the trade- mark Globe­mas­ters found in But­ler’s gar­den, there are dozens of va­ri­eties of or­na­men­tal al­li­ums.

Try the shim­mer­ing white flow­ers of the Mount Ever­est al­lium, or the fuch­sia with me­tal­lic un­der­tones in the Stars of Per­sia va­ri­ety, says Kim Fusaro, head gar­dener at the Mo­honk Moun­tain House re­sort in New Paltz, N.Y.

If you like the look but need some­thing a bit shorter, Fusaro sug­gests the yel­low shades of the moly Jean­nine or the flavum al­li­ums.

Look­ing to plant al­lium in a shady spot? Try the tri­quetrum, also known as three­cornered leeks, which bear del­i­cate white flow­ers with shades of blue and a tri­an­gu­lar stem.

Want some­thing un­usual? The drum­stick al­lium pro­duces egg-size (and egg-shaped) heads in a rich bur­gundy color, while the bul­gar­icum blooms are creamy and bell­shaped with tinges of green and pink that hang from base­ball-size flow­er­heads.


Al­li­ums are typ­i­cally dis­played best among peren­ni­als as a bor­der plant, says Amy Dube, a bulb ex­pert with Dig.Drop. Done, a North Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tional cam­paign pro­mot­ing flow­er­ing bulbs.

They hide their leaves, which whither quickly, and don’t take up much space, giv­ing room to quickly emerg­ing peren­ni­als.

But don’t be afraid to use them else­where.

Hans Langeveld, co-owner of Long­field Gar­dens in Lake­wood, N.J., rec­om­mends us­ing some of the shorter, smaller va­ri­eties in rock gar­dens, where they can thrive in the well-drained pock­ets be­tween rocks.

Some al­li­ums can do well in con­tain­ers, while the larger va­ri­eties are per­fect for cut­ting gar­dens.

“They are gor­geous just by them­selves, or paired with a large mon­stera or philo­den­dron leaf or two in a sim­ple glass,” says New York-based flo­ral de­signer Rachel Cho. “They have re­ally long stems that are very sturdy, so I like to keep them re­ally tall.”

But­ler likes to dry al­lium heads for cen­ter­pieces and even hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions, spray­ing them white and adding sparkles to make del­i­cate win­ter snow­balls.


Al­li­ums grow best in full sun, though some do well in part-sun or shade, and they pre­fer well-drained soil.

Plant them in the fall as you would any other spring-bloom­ing bulb. Wait un­til the weather cools to al­low them sev­eral weeks to de­velop a root sys­tem be­fore the ground freezes, Langeveld says.

The bulbs should be planted at least 6 to 8 inches deep, even deeper for the larger bulbs, which can be the size of a ten­nis ball.

“The gen­eral rule of thumb is to plant bulbs three times the depth of the bulb it­self, and then you just want to make sure that the root is fac­ing down to­ward the soil,” Dube says.

She rec­om­mends spac­ing the smaller bulbs about 3 inches apart and the larger ones up to 8 inches apart.

Deer, squir­rels and other gar­den pests don’t like the oniony taste of al­lium bulbs and will gen­er­ally leave them alone.


This un­dated photo pro­vided by Dig.Drop.Done shows Ivory Queen Al­li­ums, which only grow 12 to 14 inches tall, and are per­fect for con­tainer gar­den­ing. They’re also one of the only al­li­ums known for beau­ti­ful fo­liage.


This un­dated photo pro­vided by Dig.Drop.Done shows the Globe­mas­ter Al­lium, a hy­brid that is bred for su­pe­rior strength. Grow­ing at heights up to 5 feet tall, it’s a show stop­per. Beau­ti­ful and sturdy with a flair for the dra­matic, al­li­ums are a...

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