The Spheres and Fireworks of Allium
No One Should Live Without Ornamental Onions
Last year I brought home bulbs of all of the large-flowering ornamental onions we had available as part of our rare bulb offerings. I was amazed when they all bloomed in spring. Their huge spheres in shades of purple, magenta, lavender, and white seemed to float above the garden like floral balloons. I’ve always loved Allium but this past spring has convinced me that I really could not live without them. And nor should you!
Ornamental onions are best-known for the species and hybrids which form large spheres that can be 3-6 inches across. The best of the commonly available cultivars is ‘Globemaster’ but there is a wealth of other large-flowered cultivars in a variety of shades that are equally, if not more, stunning including ‘Ambassador’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Lucy Ball’, ‘Ping Pong’, and ‘Pinball Wizard’.
Allium ‘Ambassador’ has fantastic six inch spheres on tall stems like magenta-purple balloons floating above the June garden.
Allium ‘Ping Pong’ has unusual, fuzzy looking spheres of white flowers opening from buds tinged pink.
Allium ‘Gladiator’ has large, fragrant lavender-purple spheres the size of soft balls on 3-4 foot stems.
There are also Allium with even bigger spheres such as A. cristophii, A. schubertii and the hybrid ‘Spider’ with firework-like heads up to 8-12 or more inches across!
Allium cristophiilooks like a firework of tiny lavender pink flowers exploding in heads up to 15 inches wide!
Allium ‘Spider’ has the hugest flower heads like giant fireworks in the garden!
Allium schubertii has rosey purple, star-shaped flowers arranged like an exploding firework that can be as big as a volleyball!
There are also Allium that form half spheres like A. nigrum and ‘Miami’, Allium that form small spheres or egg-shaped heads like the blue A. caesium, A. sphaerocephalon, and ‘Red Mohican’, Allium forming small fireworks like A. pulchellum ssp. carinatum and A. flavum, Allium with dramatic, broad architectural foliage and large heads like ‘Ostara’, A. nevskianum, and A. karataviense ssp. henrikki, and cute little Allium with small clusters of flowers like A. moly and the shade-loving A. ursinum. All of these various forms offer shades of magenta, purple, lavender, blue, white, and yellow.
Allium nigrum produces cool half spheres of white flowers with greenish-black centres offering a unique look in the garden.
Allium caesium is a rare ornamental onion with large 4 inch wide, sky blue to milky royal blue spheres held on stems to about two feet tall.
Allium ‘Red Mohican’ is a special purple-red selection with fragrant drumsticks on tall stems.
Allium carinatum ssp.pulchellum looks like fireworks of rosy-purple florets in the summer garden.
Allium karataviense ssp. henrikki (‘Red Globe’) is a steroidal version of the species with huge leaves and reddish purple flower heads up to 8 inches across!
Allium ursinum is a beautiful shade-tolerant ornamental (and edible) onion producing a carpet of lush, broad, mid-green foliage topped with loose umbels of starry white flowers.
Ornamental onions can be grown by the majority of Canadians from coast to coast. Most of them prefer full to part sun in average to rich, free-draining soils. They are mostly considered hardy to zone 4 (with some officially hardy to zone 3) though gardeners in zone 3 and even zone 2 have successfully overwintered Allium with mulching and good snow cover in protected microclimates. They are also disease resistant, bug resistant, and deer resistant!
We are very pleased to offer more than 50 different species and cultivars of Alliume ach year for pre-ordering through the summer and fall for pick-up or shipping in late September to mid October. Should supplies last, we may also have them available potted up in early spring but fall is the best time to get them and plant them.
Allium ‘Red Eye’/’Silver Spring’ has tight heads of fragrant, white, star-like flowers with dark purple ovaries surrounded by a flush of pink.
Allium sativum var.ophioscorodon is a curious form of garlic with twisting stems that create a cool sculptural effect in the garden.
Allium ‘Rosy Dream’ produces distinctive, fuzzy, lavender pink spherical flower heads on stems about 12-18 inches high.