Langley Gardening: Alliums flower in many colours and shapes

Gardeners who grow chives, leeks and other kitchen onions don’t always think about their exotic flowering relatives alliums, the onions that are grown for their beautiful flower heads which in different varieties may be purple, pink, white, lavender and sometimes yellow or blue.

After their flowering season, the easy-to-dry seedheads can be cut for winter vases or left in the garden where they add interest until winter winds make them keel over.

Flower heads if cut early tend to keep a faded version of their original colours.

Besides being hardy and unusually healthy, alliums have a vertical growth habit that fits very well into containers and small spaces. They reliably come back year after year.

Though alliums will grow in most soils that aren’t swampy, their favourite conditions are the same ones that crocuses and tulips like – sun and well-drained soil.

The foliage dies down immediately they flower (or even a little before in some).

Once they’re dormant, drought doesn’t bother them.

Most of their bulbs can be planted below or within the roots of other plants and when flowering the taller alliums rise well above compact annuals. Squirrels seem to ignore alliums as do other pests.

Breeders are working on creating the deepest possible purple alliums such as the four foot (1.2 metre) Ambassador.

But most of the tall, large-globed ones including Globemaster, Lucille Ball or Allium giganteum are a blend of pinkish purple or purplish-pink.

Virtually all alliums are keepers which return year after year without hogging precious space.

But the Sicilian Honey Garlic (Nectaroscordum siculum) gradually makes a thick and ever-increasing mat of bulbs. The flowers produce 3’ (90cm) stems of bells in an unusual blend of white, pink purple and green.

Another strange plant is Allium schubertii which displays a ragged head of long, medium and short floret stems hosting pink flowers. It has a fascinating shape for winter vases. 

One of the most beautiful is Allium christophii which is only 12” (30cm) tall but has heads which can reach 10” (25cm) in diameter. It’s another lovely one for drying. Each starry floret is centered with a black seed.

One new and unusual species is Allium obliquum which originates in Siberia and is reputed to be evergreen.

Few alliums have yellow flowers, but this one does. It grows 40” (100cm) tall and is said to be hardy to zone 2.

Another pretty allium is Chameleon which begins flowering rosy-pink, then morphs into white petals with a purple stripe as it matures.

Also unusual is Allium atropurpureum which flowers a deep purplish-red.

It isn’t generally known that leeks, shallots and vegetable onions can produce very pretty flowers though with leeks and onions this doesn’t happen till their second year, and by then the root isn’t much use for eating.

Most flowers of vegetable alliums are white, but red onions or purple-tinged leeks may produce flowers with a purple blush or purple stamens or purple seeds.

Once you have a flower, you may obtain viable seeds for garden planting.

Obtaining seeds is best tried with one or two plants that you’ve moved out of the vegetable garden. Old roots are susceptible to diseases and pests.

Just Posted

Aldergrove chef sentenced to seven years for million-dollar drug operation

Raymon Ranu has been working as a cook since he was arrested for selling fentanyl and cocaine

Anti-gang forum aimed at helping Langley parents keep teens safe

Preventing gang recruitment is the focus of a forum to be held next week

Langley Blaze display depth despite temporary loss of pitchers

Injury and invitation to play for Team Canada leave team down three

‘Everyone wins’ volunteering for Games – chair

Langley’s Jamey Paterson has taken the helm for the 2020 winter and summer competitions

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Is vegan food a human right? Ontario firefighter battling B.C. blaze argues it is

Adam Knauff says he had to go hungry some days because there was no vegan food

Winds helping in battle against fire threatening northern Alberta town

Nearly 5,000 people have cleared out of High Level and nearby First Nation

Man pleads guilty in Surrey crash that killed two Abbotsford women

Sarah Dhillon and Paige Nagata died following head-on collision on Nov. 4, 2018

B.C. sends 267 firefighters to help battle Alberta wildfires

Out of control fires have forced evacuations in the province

LETTER: Fletcher ‘blurs reality’ on B.C. union public construction

Bridge, highway projects awarded to companies, not unions

Federal government funds millions to help B.C. police spot drugged driving

Many police departments have expressed wariness about using the only government-approved roadside test

Most Read