Friday, 5 June 2015

Alliums

Alliums are easy-to-grow bulbs that look fantastic dotted through a mixed border at this time of year. They come in white and all shades of purple and pink.
Allium White Empress





They come back each year, but as the bulbs divide they tend to produce smaller flower heads. I remove any that have become too small or straggly and add to the display with freshly bought bulbs each autumn.
Allium Purple Sensation


After trying many varieties, I have concluded that it is worth buying the more expensive, large-headed varieties, as the repeat shows over the years are better. Allium Globemaster, with its huge spherical purple heads, was well worth the £5 per bulb price tag. They are a little smaller in their second year, but they are still putting on a good show.
Allium Globemaster with the orange flower heads of Euphorbia griffithii Dixter, and Sally the chicken!



Many people don't like allium foliage. With the bigger bulbs it can be quite large, and tends to flop over. We deal with this by placing them behind other plants to mask the foliage. If it really gets in the way I just dig them up!
Allium White Empress with Lupins







Allium bulbs should be planted in autumn, but it can be hard to find space in the borders at that time of year. You can plant individual bulbs in pots of compost and overwinter them outdoors, then plant them in the border in late spring when it is easier to see how they will fit with the other plants.


Some alliums have seed heads that look great for months. When the seed heads start to fall over we put the best of them into vases in the house.
Allium Christophii beginning to open. This will become a large globe of loose stars, followed by a dramatic seed head that lasts for months. My favourite.




There are dainty alliums in white and pale pink that look beautiful drifting through borders, but they tend to spread quite vigorously, so don't plant these unless you are prepared to spend time keeping them in check.
Allium Roseum


Also of interest in the garden at the moment - aquilegias are in full flower now. Unfortunately we have removed quite a few with suspected downy mildew - a new disease threatening this much-loved cottage garden favourite. If you grow aquilegias please Carrie Thomas' website: www.touchwoodplants.co.uk
Fortunately we still have many aquilegias left to enjoy. I particularly like the fact that this Black Barlow seedling has disguised itself against a Cotinus.
Aquilegia Black Barlow growing through the dark purple leaves of a Cotinus



Our current to-do list

1. Potting-on and hardening off - seedlings that were sown earlier this year are being moved into larger pots before they are ready to plant in the garden in a few weeks. We are moving potted Dahlias and Cannas outside now to protected positions before we either plant them in the borders or put them in large terracotta pots that contained Spring displays of tulips.

2. Mowing the grass - this has become a weekly task.

3. Enjoying the daily changes - the garden changes so much at this time of year you see something new every day. This is the time to sit back, maybe with a glass of wine, and enjoy all the previous hard work.