Alliums: Spectacular Summer Flowering Bulbs!
Last autumn, Dutch Grown sent me a range of their bulbs to try. I planted all the bulbs Dutch Grown sent me in containers filled with peat-free composts from Dalefoot Composts, Melcourt SylvaGrow, and Happy Compost. I’ve already published one update full of pictures of Dutch Grown’s colourful spring flowering bulbs; this update is dedicated to Dutch Grown’s Alliums…here are the results!
I’ve been growing Alliums for over twenty five years. Every garden I’ve created has included Alliums, as I love to grow plants that produce pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. Last autumn, Dutch Grown kindly sent me the Allium bulbs that produced all of the flowers pictured in this update.
I took these pictures of the flower heads altogether, to more clearly show you the differences in flower size between the various types of Alliums. Allium cristophii form short plants with larger and slightly more silvery flower heads; Allium ‘Globemaster’ is much taller with globe shaped flowers that are a fraction smaller and a touch more purple in colour; by far the smallest of this bunch is Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ – their flowers are tiny in comparison to the other Alliums in this image. This update also features Allium ‘Gladiator’ – another tall flowered type – a truly spectacular Allium.
As Allium flowers age they fade from purple, lilac, and silver, ageing to an elegant warm shade of taupe; when the blooms become sculptural seed heads which persist in the garden, but will last even longer if you cut the stems for indoor flower displays. Dried flowers have never been more beautiful or easy – even a single Allium cristophii, Allium ‘Globemaster’, or Allium ‘Gladiator’ seed head displayed in a vase will create an impact in your home.
Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’
I spotted a Large Red Damselfly resting on these Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ flowers. I expect that this damselfly was attracted to my wildlife pond and then rested on a plant in the near vicinity of the pond – this damselfly is unlikely to have been drawn to this Allium otherwise. Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ is the only bulb in this update that won’t benefit bees and butterflies; if you’re looking to create a garden for pollinating insects, this Allium is not one for your planting list.
However, Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ is much more likely to attract florists, flower arrangers, or gardeners, looking for something different.
Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ is a very easy to grow Allium. Over the years, I’ve grown a number of forms of Allium scorodoprasum, I’ve always found this species is keen to propagate itself and it also re-flowers every year – it’s very obliging.
I’ve never noticed any scent from Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ flowers, but I’ve found this Allium’s leaves do have a slight chive like scent when I brush past their foliage.
Allium cristophii is one of my favourite Alliums. If you’re eager to grow more plants for bees and pollinating insects, you might be interested in growing Allium cristophii in your garden; as this Allium species produces spectacular flowers which are a magnet for bees. This is a short and stocky Allium with magnificent and surprisingly large flowers held by short, sturdy stems. Allium cristophii is the shortest Allium in this post by quite a degree. Although I’ve lifted my Allium cristophii pots up to enable me to show you the various Allium flower heads alongside each other, if all the planters were placed on the ground, the other Alliums would tower above Allium cristophii.
I took this photograph showing an Ashy Mining Bee enjoying Allium cristophii flowers; these are such handsome bees. My photo shows a side view of an Ashy Mining Bee; if you caught sight of this bee from the back you’d notice that these bees have a very polished appearance – their backs are smooth and they shine and sparkle in the sunlight – they are a delight! Ashy Mining Bees aren’t the only insects I’ve spotted on Allium cristophii flowers – I’ve seen so many different species of bee enjoying these Alliums!
Allium cristophii produces these large flower heads that start life as a lovely collection of individual star-shaped blooms, fashioned together in a somewhat horizontal habit; as more flowers open they create a spherical shaped flower head. Whatever their stage of growth, whether in bud, in flower, or as a fading bloom or seed head, Allium cristophii flowers are always beautiful.
I love being near bees, butterflies, and moths and so I am always looking for plants that will feed and support these insects. It’s actually quite difficult to take a photograph of Allium cristophii without any insects on the flowers. I had to wait until later in the evening when the temperature had cooled to take the few pictures of Alliums you see in this update that are without any noticeable insects.
Some plants are attractive to a particular type of pollinator but Alliums are especially valuable as they attract a wide range of bee species, as well as hoverflies, butterflies, and other pollinating insects.
Sadly, I’ve only seen a few butterflies in my garden this year, despite the fact that I grow a large range of caterpillar food plants and plants with flowers that are usually adorned with butterflies. It’s really important that we all do more to help support our bees, butterflies, moths, and other insects; we can help by growing plants that will supply insects with pollen and nectar and by growing food plants to support and nourish the larval stages of our insects. Many butterfly and moth caterpillars feed on nettles; tall meadow like grasses (you’ll need to allow these grasses to grow to full size) are another valuable food plant for caterpillars, as are oak, willow, hazel, and beech.
I don’t use any pesticides or insecticides in my garden – I’ve never used any of these treatments outdoors, as I don’t want to kill any insects in my garden. Aphids and other insects are a vital part of our food chain; these creatures are predated upon by ladybirds, wasps, hoverflies, and birds.
It’s not only bees, I’ve also spotted hoverflies making the most of my Allium cristophii flowers.
Look at how magnificent Allium cristophii flowers are! Each individual flower has a glorious sheen and a silver hue, at times Allium cristophii flowers look as if they are crafted from steel.
It’s great to find a plant like Allium cristophii, which is so attractive to so many species of bees, but is also incredibly drought tolerant and resilient. Although Dutch Grown only sent me these bulbs last autumn, I’ve been growing Allium cristophii for many years. I’ve never once watered these Alliums, yet they thrive in my light, free-draining sandy soil and come back to flower again and again, every year. Allium cristophii is a plant that I definitely recommend.
I’ve never detected any scent from Allium cristophii flowers.
Not all Alliums can be grown in containers, some containerised Alliums flower in their first year, only to disappear when their blooms fade. However, Allium cristophii makes a superb container plant that will reliably flower again and again. Allium cristophii look lovely grown in window boxes, where their gorgeous low growing, iridescent flowers will shine. I always use peat-free compost to grow Alliums; these plants thrive in free-draining compost – they don’t want to sit in water – so there’s no need for a water-retaining compost or any of that horrid gel-like water absorbing substance that is often used in container gardens.
Over the years my Allium cristophii bulbs have increased in number, producing new bulbs every few years.
All of the Alliums I’ve featured in this update flourish in free-draining sandy soils; they positive thrive in bright sunshine and love to be baked by the sun.
When I took the picture of the Allium cristophii flower above, the blooms appeared as lilac-purple in colour, but the same flower in the picture below looks to be lilac-pink with a reddish tinged highlights – the light really has an effect on the colour of these flowers.
This is Allium ‘Gladiator’, another plant with flowers that delight many species of bee. In contrast to Allium cristophii, Allium ‘Gladiator’ is a tall growing Allium that stands proudly in the border towering above smaller herbaceous plants. Reaching up to around 1.2m (4ft) tall, Allium ‘Gladiator’ creates a real impact in the garden; this is another Allium that I heartily recommend!
Bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects positively delight in Allium ‘Gladiator’ flowers. I adore the green centre that each individual flower holds – the combination of colours of the purple/lilac and green is very pleasing.
I used to grow Allium cristophii, Allium ‘Gladiator’ and Allium ‘Globemaster’ at my allotment. These bulbs all thrived in my silty free-draining soil, blessed by growing out in the open where they were bathed in sunshine. I found that all of these Allium bulbs came back each year to flower again and again, and they also produced new bulbs every few years. Every three or four years I would divide the bulbs and plant the offsets in a new area to extend their range.
My photographs are all of larger bumble bees feasting on ‘Gladiator’ flowers, but I’ve also seen hoverflies and smaller solitary bees attending these flowers – it’s just that I am not always fast enough to capture a photo!
‘Gladiator’ flowers have such a heavenly appearance, I just adore their perfect globe shaped blooms held on tall stems – they’re gorgeous. I have so much love for these Alliums! The extra height that ‘Gladiator’ has really is an advantage; these plants look so good in the border.
With so many bees and hoverflies coming to visit these ‘Gladiator’ flowers, naturally they have attracted predators as well as pollinators. I’ve seen crab spiders out hunting on all of the Alliums in this update, with the exception of Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ – as Allium scorodoprasum ‘Art’ flowers don’t attract insects.
Bees will quite happily feed in close proximity to other bees on Allium flowers; their dining companions can be bees of the same species or those from an entirely different tribe. I’ve watched one bee knock another bee off a solitary flower to enable it to dine alone, but I’ve never witnessed this with Alliums – all the bees have seemed quite content to feast in and amongst other bees and insects, as they feast upon these flowers.
Allium ‘Globemaster’ is another superb Allium! Although it’s a little shorter than Allium ‘Gladiator’ – Allium ‘Globemaster’ is a tall growing Allium, with flower heads that reach around 90cm (3ft) tall. Allium ‘Globemaster’ holds its spherical flower heads up above most herbaceous perennials, so it’s a super plant for a herbaceous or mixed border.
This is another reliable Allium that you can plant in your garden where it will reliably come back to flower again, year after year.
There’s something about pompom shaped flowers that I’ve been in love with since I was a child. I can remember drawing pictures of round flowers held on tall stems as I child; I still take such delight in spherical flowers now, all these years later.
The height that Allium ‘Globemaster’ flowers have is a true blessing and will allow you to admire these plants across the garden, increasing their visibility and impact.
Allium ‘Globemaster’ foliage dies back before or as the plants are coming into flower. This looks rather scrappy and untidy in my photograph above, as I’ve isolated these bulbs in a container with nothing to shield them. If these Alliums were planted in a herbaceous border, their decaying leaves would be hidden by the herbaceous perennials or whatever plants were growing around them.
My heart is full of love for Allium ‘Globemaster’, Allium ‘Gladiator’, and Allium cristophii; I adore their flowers but I also feel such gratitude to these Alliums for their ability to feed and sustain so many fascinating insects.
All of the Alliums in this update thrive in a bright, sunny location; they’ll grow in partial shade but prefer full on sunshine if possible. These plants flourish in free-draining sandy soils. Avoid planting these particular Alliums in shaded areas, or in wet or waterlogged soil or compost.
If you’re interested in growing plants for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects, you’ll find lots of great ideas in this article.
Alternatively, see a longer list of pictures of pollinator friendly plants and growing info by clicking here.
See the results of my Moth Night 2021 Moth Count, by clicking here.
For information on growing a wide range of vegetables, please click here.