Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Globe Alliums

These are the globe alliums growing around the Finger Rock I recently posted. Though I've had these photos for a couple of weeks, they just kept getting overlooked for posting ... my bad! Anyway, what finally got me moving was this post over at Tales From Far Manor, FARfetched's blog. He has discovered some kind of rogue allium growing on the Manor grounds and wanted some help identifying it and wondered if it was worth keeping or was a potential pest. His specimen is definitely some sort of allium (of which there are some 1250 species in the genus, according to Wikipedia), but since the buds are just beginning to open, it's anyone's guess as to what it will turn into.

Since he says it's over 5 ft tall, for his sake, I'm hoping it's one of the Globe Alliums, and Giganteum would be a nice surprise for him, though I suspect it may turn out to be something a bit less showy. Well, he should know soon enough, but identifying the exact species may be a bit tricky, given the huge numbers of species.

Ours are much more mundane, only reaching about 3-4 feet in height at bloom stage, but they're still very pretty and welcome tenants in the late spring garden, where we have three planted in proximity to Finger Rock. I have no idea what species we have (the blooms on these are not the huge variety, merely about 6 inches in diameter) because they came in a "bargain pack" of allium bulbs that my sister bought a few years ago and she graciously shared a few with us. We're just happy that they're purple!

Alliums are very easy to grow and with time, will produce offsets and multiply. They're also very beneficial plants to have in the garden, because not only do they repel many garden pests (deer and squirrels), they also add sulfur to the soil over time, which is a welcome "side effect" to some plants, especially those susceptible to powdery mildew. We have ours planted right at the edges of our Monarda (Bee Balm) patch because when we first grew it we used to have problems with powdery mildew in the hot summer months. But since the alliums have been there (3 years now), not a hint of that problem. So, if you have any plants with that particular problem, planting some alliums nearby may well solve your dilemma. Besides, they're really striking 'architectural' plants in the border, attracting many bees and other pollinating insects in late May.

In general, we're big fans of most alliums (especially the edible types!), but one example stands out as a 'never want to have near our garden' species is the 'Egyptian Walking Onion' (Allium proliferum) because they are downright thugs! Over the years I've known a few people who actually let them loose in their yard and lived to regret it ... see, these guys "walk" across the area, dropping seeds and bulblets, spreading rapidly in the space of just a few years. When I was in graduate school in Madison, WI, I used to mow a friend's yard once in a while and he had them in abundance in his yard. When you mow over one of them, you really know it! They really get the lacrymal glands going in no time! And if you're brave enough to eat one, you'll have perhaps the most intense onion-y experience of your life! I'm amazed that some people actually like to eat them (that link to Daves Garden had no negatives associated with it!) One of our neighbors across the street has them all over their yard and thankfully, there is a good bit of street and curbs between there and here, because we'd be horrified to see them start showing up in our yard. I guess it's all in the eye and taste buds of the beholder/taster, but I tried them once and they were way too much for me, and I have a very high tolerance for spicy foods and most of the culinary alliums. Caveat emptor is definitely in order for anyone considering letting these loose in their garden ....


FARfetched said...

Hey, great info, IVG. I'm hoping for something showy, because the most open of the bulbs are starting to turn the same color as what's in your pix.

In my pic, you can see where it's growing next to a cross-tie; that's a butterfly bush behind it & there's a holly just off-camera… so it might be growing tall just to get a little sun. If it turns out to be anything worth keeping, I'll definitely dig it up this fall & transplant it.

Wow, 1250 species. And I thought hollies were broad-based, with 400.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Your Alliums are anything but mundane! I've got to get some of those purple globes. My Allium thug is the native A. cernum. Every year I have to rip out tons of it.

boran2 said...

Those are gorgeous photos, IVG. What a beautiful plant.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey FAR! I hope yours turns out to be one of the pretty ones! I'm still baffled as to how it appeared at the Manor, unless it was planted before you got there and migrated. Keep me posted on what it turns into, and hopefully it's not what MMD mentions she has in later comments!

Sorry to be so brief, but I'm primaried out tonight, lol.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi there MMD! Thanks for the compliments on these ... I wish I could pass on which ones they are, but my sister just said, they're big purple globe alliums, lol. They're definitely not giganteum, just something in between the "drumstick" varieties and those.

I'll have to look up your "thug" and see what you're dealing with over there. Thanks for stopping by!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Thx, B2 ... glad you liked them! Add them to your list of bulbs to plant ... they don't take up much space and aren't so big you have to dig big holes to plant them, so good in small spaces. (I keep assuming that's what you have to deal with, though I may be very wrong!)

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