Top 10 Alliums

Top 10 Alliums

Top 10 Alliums

Forget TV dancing competitions, grow your own glitterball.

When I was a young lad, I recall seeing in my Grandad’s garden these unusual purple orbs. The rounded flowers held a magical fascination because I imagined they were wizards’ wands. (One time my imagination got the better of me and I snapped one of these wands at the base of the stem to run around casting spells. Some quick ‘old school’ discipline on the back of my head from my Grandad soon put an end to my burgeoning career as a wizard.) Anyway, not many gardeners were growing these bulbs back then, and if you saw any, they were always purple – alliums were the Model-T Ford of their day; “you can have any colour you like as long as it was purple…and round”.

When my old grandad was alive you could buy 5 different breakfast cereals, now in my local supermarket there are 2 aisles devoted to the same item…and much the same has happened to alliums. You can have oval shaped, pom-pom, open cupped, star-shaped, egg-shaped, semi-circular and some look like an explosion in a fireworks factory. Next is the size; you can have them with flowers the size of a brussels sprout, or the size of a glitterball. Then there are the colours - purple, lavender. dark blue, sky blue, red, pink, yellow, orange (So many colours this reminds me of the song “…I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow, tra-la-la-la…”.) No doubt about it there is a lot of choice.

This boom in the number of garden varieties is due to the popularity of the allium. Without doubt, this is one of the most robust bulbous perennials. With some bulbs you must lift before winter, wrap them in newspaper, knit them a jersey, then sing them a lullaby, before putting them in a drawer ahead of the cold rain’s arrival…but not the allium. After flowering you can leave the allium bulb in the ground, in well-drained soil of course, and when winter descends the allium will bare its chest and say, “do your worst”, then come back to flower the following year.

The reason the allium is so tough is its shares its DNA with the ‘wild onion’ and the wild onion is an almost indestructible bulb. What other bulb is mentioned in the Bible, The Quran and Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’? The allium is a milder ornamental flowering derivative of the wild onion, yet still carries the survival mechanism deep within its cells…even rats, squirrels, voles, and moles will steer clear of an allium bulb.

So, for thousands of years humans have cultivated the allium family, firstly as a food source and latterly for stunning colour and shape in your early summer garden. May and June are the time of year to catch alliums in their pomp. The different shaped blooms appear ethereal and seemingly float unsupported dotted throughout the border, because their green stems blend into the colour of the surrounding plants leaves. Claude Monet, the artist, once said, “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”, and for you to create your work of art, dabbing colourful alliums and seeing them hovering in your border and containers, is an essential part of your floral canvas.

Florists love alliums, a long vase life, stylish, fashionable, elegant, impactful, therefore no surprise they are cherished by those who enjoy creating cut flower arrangements from their garden plants.

All this brings me round to which are the best varieties to grow. With such a breadth of size, shape, and colour to choose from, here are the Top 10 based on the popularity of tens of thousands of Hayloft’s customers.

Within this Top 10 there are some beauties for you to consider. (Obviously, you do not have to buy any of these, though if you are interested in any these alliums, please note these are the varieties which sell out the fastest).

10. Allium Lavender Bubbles

Allium Lavender Bubbles produces dark, dusky 'bubbles' which appear to magically float over the lush clumps of blue-green strap-shaped foliage, which twist to provide even more interest.

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9. Allium Little Sapphire

Delightful peppy little pompoms in pleasing purple-pink grace this small allium. Ideal for pots, small garden, and front of border.

8. Allium Globemaster

One of the most popular and well-known alliums with its 15cm diameter flowerheads, creates a theatrical and dramatic impression in the border.

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7. Allium Sphaerocephalon

The Allium Sphaerocephalon has blooms which open green and gradually mature to an attractive maroon purple. For a large part of the season, they are both green and maroon; the flowers are more egg-shaped than spherical. An unusual and popular mid-sized allium.

6. Allium Mount Everest

The statuesque Allium stipitatum Mount Everest is a tall allium. The spherical blooms are created from over 50 star-shaped creamy white flowers which create an architectural statement.

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5. Allium Stipitatum

A glowing romantic vibrant hot pink colour, with perfect spherical ‘lollipop’ orbs, illuminates borders and containers. 

4. Allium Graceful Beauty

A well-named and will enhance any herbaceous border or pretty container. Perfect round globes of individual white flowers each touched with delicate pink centres stand on straight stems above bright green foliage which is low-lying.

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3. Allium Caeruleum

A popular and sought after allium because of the sky-blue flowers and being mid-sized will grow in pots and borders.

2. Allium Giganteum

Currently the largest allium available, Allium giganteum is a tall and creates an impressive focal point in any garden. The height can reach 180cm (6 feet!). These spherical balls of small star-shaped flowers come in shades of purple to form a small glitterball above low-lying foliage.

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1. Allium Silver Spring

Perhaps the most captivating of alliums, the floral structure and scent make this a standout allium. Being medium height, this allium looks superb in any garden. The pinkish-white flowers have a burgundy centre, which bejewel the blooms like a ruby.