Alliums are one of the first leaves to emerge in spring, with chives. Breaking into the sun as early as February.
Early emergence means they have had a long period of photosynthesis before the demands of flowering. That means, by May the bulb will have made enough food to thrive and grow into the following year. It’s worth knowing that allium leaves, like onion skins, contain a strong dye, which will stain yellow, hands and clothing.
Alliums are a reliabe perennial, coming back year after year, but the initial outlay can be large. ‘Purple Sensation’ is famously good value, ‘Lucy Ball’ and A. atropurpureum as another pair that give you a decent show and are quite cheap.
‘Early Emperor’ is a classic, which is usually the first to open the garden, ‘Purple Rain’ has shone through for early and length of flowering. It came into flower a couple of weeks earlier than most (in early May) and is still looking OK now in early June. The foliage is also quite fine, but even so, some leaf removal is a good idea.
The idea of alliums in long grass as you might see in the wild. You might try ‘Purple Sensation’ and the same number of the white flowered Allium nigrum. Its overall height is affected by competition from the grasses.
The alliums fit well into a succession of bulbs in grass, which starts in March with Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ then moves on to Narcissus poeticus, to be followed by Camassia leichtlinii Caerulea. These then dovetail perfectly into Allium nigrum. A similar looking A. atropurpureum and a mauve variety of A. nigrum called ‘Pink Jewel’ would be good options. ‘Mercurius’ is another option, but it is pricey.
Lucy Ball is a highly recommended allium because it’s cheaper than most but still gives a good show and has great stature.
Purple Rain Purple rain flowers earlier than many other alliums and lasts longer too.
Spider is magnificent but It’s expensive.
Allium karataviense in its species and white ‘Ivory Queen’ forms are good choices. They’re compact, standing less than a foot tall, yet they have good sized pom-poms.
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