I have always wanted to grow Alliums and this year I have finally been successful. Alliums are ornamental onions with unique ball-shaped mauve and purple heads that sit gracefully amongst the roses, and perennials making the garden more appealing and complete. The showy Allium Giganteum is the largest that I’m growing and has a beautiful form; tall and majestic. It will at the end of summer, become a super-cool dried flower.
When I first made an attempt at growing Alliums from a bulb they never came up and I’m still unsure why. I gave up on the expensive bulbs after several attempts and tried small plants from Perennial Plants Canowindra instead. The larger ones grew and bloomed the year of purchase and then I planted smaller ones that took two seasons to flower but are all fantastic now. I’m unsure why the bulbs are so tricky and I’ve heard I’m not the only one with these results. Needless to say, the garden has plenty of Alliums now on show and they are gorgeous.
Alliums are considered to be the aristocrats of the onion family and are related to chives, onions, leeks or shallots, as described by Wikipedia
Why do I like them so much? They look terrific in amongst the roses, with their perfectly symmetrical heads providing an exclamation mark and contrast so well. No wonder they are called Allium Giganteum, the tallest of the Alliums standing about 4-5 feet high in the garden.
The onion family has many small plants that provide pretty border plants for the garden. Ranging from Allium schoenoprasum or chives to the more pungent Tulbaghia and Tulbaghia violacea (variegated) or society garlic to Allium tuberosum called garlic chives, Asian chives or Chinese chives. All these smaller alliums are perfect for the cottage gardens with dainty lilac flowers on tall slender stems like a mini version of the tall Alliums. Not only are they good to eat ( chives) and give the garden another layer of interest but provide compounds that have been found to be highly antimicrobial, antibacterial, antioxidant, and antifungal. Like their taller cousins, these low lying chive and garlic plants are low maintenance, drought and heat tolerant.
And yet there is more; one of the best alliums in my opinion is Allium porrum or leeks followed by Allium fistulosum -shallots or scallions. Leeks and scallions are fun to cook with but are quite different in size and flavour. Leeks have a slight garlicky taste that mellows when cooked and becomes creamy. Leeks blend well with subtly flavoured foods like prawns, zucchini, poached chicken and potato. Think Potato and Leek Soup, Chicken and Leek Pie. The white section of the leeks can be cut up and roasted, sauteed or used in recipes instead of onions and the taste will be a bit richer yet more refined. The green stalks can be used for stocks and soups along with carrots, celery, and chicken bones but remember to wash them thoroughly because grit and dirt get hidden in the layers. Scallions are shallots delicious, fresh and peppery; mostly used for salads and Asian stirfries or soups as a tasty fresh or dried garnish.
There are many more Alliums to grow later when available such as;
- Allium cristophii called Star of Persia.
- Allium ‘Globemaster.
- Allium karataviense called Turkish Onion.
- Allium oreophilum -Pink Lily leek.
- Allium triquetrum– Three corned leek.
- Allium ‘Millenium’ A long flowering pink variety.
- Allium sphaerocephalon or Drumstick Allium.
- Allium aflatunense or Persion flowering Onion.
Content and Images from the garden by Di Baker 2022
Stunning Allium photos on the Title and last image are by Karl Wimmi – Windfield Photographic Collection, https://commons.wikimedia.org and otherwise as cited.