Allium species

Alliums are bulbs with a childish charm which best suits a cottage garden or an informal planting, though they also look well among shrub roses. They flower in round terminal umbels on stiff stalks but there are a great many species to choose from in a variety of colours and sizes. They are hardy and easy to grow and increase by clumping up and (in most cases) seeding freely.

Out of a large genus I suggest three alliums which are particularly delectable. The tallest is A. giganteum, with tight balls of violet flowers which in mid-summer top stalks that are 4 feet (1.2 m) tall. Equally handsome is A. christophii (also known as A. albopilosum), with enormous round heads of starry metallic-purple flowers about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter on stalks I 8 inches (45 cm) tall, a lovely plant with hybrid musk roses like ‘Buff Beauty’ and ‘Cornelia’. A most curious and interesting species with a different flower shape is A. bulgoricum (sometimes listed as A. siculum), where the flowerheads are not tight globes but bunches of hanging bells. In the bud stage each bell is enclosed in a tight papery sheath, which bursts to release a pinkand-white striped nodding bell. This stage lasts for two or three weeks in early to mid-summer when the bells turn upwards to form a tight pointed cluster. The stalks are at least 3 feet (90 cm) tall and need some herbaceous underplanting. -.

Alliums will grow in any well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Plant at a depth of about three times the size of the bulb. They are often recommended for cut-ting, but I find the onion smell too strong for the house.

Anthemis cupaniana, an aromatic herbaceous perennial, bears a long succession of margueritelike flowers on stems up to 12 inches (30 cm) high over spreading grey-green cushions of foliage.

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