A shout out for Alliums

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As I said in my last post, I am most enamoured of plants that provide the greatest amount of gorgeousness for  the littlest amount of effort. I am no martyr to the garden and I want my hard graft with spade and hoe to reward me with the greatest amount of loveliness – I think of it as efficiency rather than laziness ;) For this reason I am a huge fan of planting bulbs in the garden.

The vast majority simply require bunging in the ground one autumn and then magically, spring after spring, up pop a stunning display of amazing, colourful blooms. That seems a very good effort to reward ratio. I have a weakness for scented Narcissi and Tulips are so beautiful. However, hands down the bulbs that give me the greatest sense of achievement because they consistently provide weeks and weeks of drop dead glamour in the borders, are Alliums.

From the humble onion family, they are the unlikely sirens of the garden – their star spangled globes, some of huge proportions, (Globemaster and Giganteum are enormous), are held aloft above the ground on long, strong stems. Planted in swathes, they are just so darn glam. They have worked particularly well in my garden planted with Bronze Fennel and Anthriscus Raven’s Wing. Swoony!

These darker ones are Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation', and at about the size of a tennis ball, they are my go-to Allium, I add a few more each year and love the way they now form purple rivers of colour and pom pom glamour through my flowerbeds. And, they look lovely from bud to seedhead so their season of interest is many weeks long.

Like other Alliums, all they really require is decent drainage and a sunny spot.  They strut their stuff from about mid April to late May in my garden, but when the colour fades the seed heads form and are a funky lime green and, as such, worthy of their place for about another month. If you are an arty/crafty soul you can pick and dry the seed heads at this stage, and then spray paint them for Christmas or party decorations. My other top Alllium is Allium Sphaerocephalon, the Drumstick Allium.

The bulbs are tiny and so very easy to plant, as well as being cheap as chips. They flower later on in the summer, at that tricky time when the main flush of early summer blooms are past their best and the early autumn colour is yet o come, so they are really useful and their tight, deep plum flowers look stunning in every stage, (the little lime green bud stage looks amazing in a bouquet).

If you fancy some fantastical style in your garden some of the other Alliums really fit the bill. The shorter Allium Christophii, with its huge star burst of metallic blooms defies belief, and again is lovely in every stage.


Allium Schubertii and  Allium Spider are both  intriguing in a kooky kind of way, and in the right place Allium  Bulgaricum has a statuesque uniqueness that you will either love or hate. Alliums are never a boring guest at the party! There are many more varieties in a range of colours to explore and most are easily available. The white globes of varieties like Mont Blanc and Mount Everest are especially stunning.

So, whether your garden would suit naturalistic swathes or urban chic regimented rows, my money is on Alliums for some serious but low maintenance glamour in the garden in 2013. As an added bonus the bees love them too, so I hope I have convinced you to give them a go if you haven’t already? Happy co-incidence - this is the perfect time to plant them.

For the full range of Sarah Raven alliums (which is where I get most of mine from...) visit the Sarah Raven website, you won't be disappointed.

Thanks for reading, and happy planting! xx