Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
June, 2009
Regional Report

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Turkestan onion (Allium karataviense) makes a dramatic impact as a front-of-the border accent.

Ornamental Onions Will Leave You Breathless

Some of my favorite perennial plants are the ornamental onions. Also called flowering onions, these beautiful plants offer a sculptural quality to the garden that isn't found in many other plants. They range from majestic five-foot tall Gigantic onion to the dainty one-foot tall nodding onion.

The term onion brings to mind strong scent and flavor, but these plants are anything but offensive. The slight onion scent of the bulbs repels rodents and squirrels, and the blossoms have a very sweet scent.

The bulbing plants are usually planted in fall at the same time as daffodils and tulips. They are useful for unique texture and striking colors in the spring, summer and perennial borders. Most of them have flower heads that are attractive as they begin to open, when they are in full bloom, and after they dry on the plant.

Alliums perform best in full sun and well-drained, moderately fertile soil. Plant the bulbs with summer-flowering perennials so the withering allium foliage will be hidden by the fresh summer foliage of the perennials.

Whether you are looking for a giant statement in the garden or a dainty bouquet for cutting, please check out these possibilities.

This giant allium has eight to ten inch flowers heads in late spring to early summer. The flowers are tightly packed balls in lovely shades of deep purple-violet.

Giant Onion
Allium giganteum attracts attention in the garden with pale purple flowers in late spring on 40-inch stems. White Giant and Mount Everest are white flowering. 'Gladiator' has bluish purple flowers that are equally as large as A. giganteum. They appear in early summer on 36 to 48 inch stems.

Nodding Onion
Allium cernuum is a North American native that blooms in late June with one to two foot stalks crowned with drooping umbels of bell-shaped mauve to deep rose to purple flowers. Nodding onions are excellent as cut flowers.

Blue Onion
Allium caeruleum has dense clusters of clear, blue flowers in golfball-sized flower heads in early summer. The foliage dies back before blooming, and 12 to 18 inch tall plants freely naturalize in sunny, undisturbed areas.

Star of Persia
Allium christophii is one of the most beautiful. The softball-sized flower heads are borne on twelve- to twenty-inch stems. Starry fireworks of amethyst flowers appear in late spring and often last for 2 to 3 weeks.

Turkestan Onion
Allium karataviense is another ornamental onion with attractive foliage. The wide gray-blue foliage is a magnificent backdrop to the lilac or white flower heads. The golf ball-size flower heads sit on 8- to 12-inch-tall stems.

Golden Garlic
The bright yellow starry flowers of Allium moly are held in golf ball sized flower heads that appear in early summer on 10 to 12 inch stems. This onion freely naturalizes in undisturbed areas.

Drumstick Allium
Allium sphaerocephalon has quarter-sized flower heads in early summer. Flowers start out lime green, turn maroon at the base and fade to purple near the top. This onion reseeds itself and can form small colonies in suitable sites.

Garlic Chives
Allium tuberosum is used for its beauty and its edible foliage. Strappy leaves that are garlic flavored and excellent for cooking set off star-shaped fragrant white flowers that bloom from late summer to autumn. This onion will self sow.

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