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Alliums in May

My cut flower patch has well and truly gone to seed. It has dried up, shriveled and in an unexpected way, it’s looking fantastic. Intricate golden seed heads glisten in the late summer sun and rustle in the breeze.

I grew three kinds of love-in-a-mist, which looked wonderful earlier in the summer and provided me with armfuls of cut flowers to give to friends. The real stars of the show, though, are the ornamental alliums. They’re the flamboyant cousins of our humble leeks and garlic – and if you’ve ever had your leeks bolt on you, you’ll instantly see the family resemblance. They all have wonderful globe-like flowers on long, straight stems: almost like lollipops in your borders.

Alliums in June

It’s a fairly small group of plants, those that look better dead*. But as summer progresses and life departs from all the above-ground parts of alliums, they take on a wonderful golden sheen, and seem to shine out in the mellowing light of late summer and early autumn.

Now the plants are properly dormant, it’s the ideal time to plant new allium bulbs. I adore them – they’re cheap, easy, dramatic and colourful; and they provide delightful punctuation points to beds and borders.

Dried Allium in August

There’s a rule with bulbs – the earlier they come into growth, the earlier they should be planted. So that means that you want to start getting your winter aconites, snowdrops, scillas etc in as soon as possible. Alliums, although they’re late flowering, come into growth rather early in spring, so should also be planted early – August and September are ideal months. Plant them at three times their own depth in a sunny spot in well drained soil. Simples!**

  • including many ornamental grasses and some perennials – have a look at the Miscanthus nepalensis this “Prairie” garden I made in France a couple of years ago
  • *If, like me, you have the memory of a goldfish, then it’s worth buying some small green florist’s canes and using them to mark where you’ve put your alliums.

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