Allium, a striking plant for great garden combinations

Allium has no less then 500 species, each prettier or more unusual in shape then the last. Also known as ornamental onions, Allium is ideal for making colour and height combinations in the border.

Purple and pink flower balls

The large purple flower balls of Allium aflatunense 'Purple Sensation' are real eye catchers in the border. The plants are highly decorative even when the flowers become overblown, as tiny green seed boxes replace them. For a playful effect, plant the much lower pink chives, Allium schoenoprasum, in between.

Late spring flowers

Most ornamental onions flower in June, just after the real spring flowerers, and before most summer flowers comes into bloom. They therefore form an indispensable perennial that keeps the border in flower well into the year. For best results, plant your Allium bulbs in November in a sunny spot, quite deep ( just over twice as deep as the height of the bulb), in well-drained fertile soil. Because of the great variety of bulb sizes (from 3 to over 20cm), it is best to draw up a planting plan. You can then keep track of their location and heights in the border, and also make allowances for the fact that Alium foliage dies back quite early. By planting them in combination with plants like Stork's Bill, for example, you can cover the gaps made by dying foliage.

Endless variety

  • Alium's between tall border plants
    In this location, try the round Allium's, 'Gladiator' or 'Lucy Ball'. These make a great combination with taller (60 - 80 cm) border plants, like phlox, speedwell, yarrow, knotweed (Persicaria), the off-white gypsophila or the blue strawflower (Catanache caerulea) (both about 50 cm).
  • Alium's between lower border plants
    Here, the more delicate types like the blue Allium caeruleum (±40 cm high) and the lilac Allium unifolium (±30 cm high) deserve a prominent spot, at the front of the border, perhaps next to Phuopsis stylosa.

Chives for something extra 

Chives are a fantastic type of ornamental onion to bring variety and height difference in your border. Allium schoenoprasum 'Forescata' has bright pink flowers that contrast beautifully with the grey-green foliage of pearl everlasting (Anaphalis triplinervis). Unlike other Alliums, chives keep on producing new foliage, and the little additional extra is that the stalk-like foliage, is edible. It is most tasty before the plant flowers. It is a very tasty addition to boiled or fried eggs, tomato, on salads or in soups.