Why We Adore the Elegance of Alliums
"They are like lollipops sticking up," says Loi Thai of the whimsical white spheres that grow from the boxwood parterre in his Bethesda, Maryland, garden. Although alliums come in various shades of purple, red, blue, and yellow, Thai opted for this white "Mount Everest" selection with 4-inch round blooms. These reach an amazing 36 to 40 inches tall. "The whites are just so crisp against all the green, and they bloom for an impressively long two weeks every year in mid-May," he says. Thai is quick to point out that, despite their delicate looks, alliums are actually quite hardy. Related to onions, they are sun lovers who lucked out and inherited their kin's slight odor. This scent gives them a natural resistance to moles, squirrels, and deer. If only all bulbs and flowers could be so fortunate. And don't worry about spring showers taking out your alliums—they're airier than they appear, which allows rain to drain right through and keep these dainty stems standing up straight. Though they're technically perennials, Thai recommends planting new bulbs every third fall, because the more they bloom, the less showy and spectacular the blossoms will be. The best bulbs come from reputable retailers. (Thai orders his online from whiteflowerfarm.com.)
Green and white is more than just a no-fail color combo; it also provides high contrast and is easily seen at night. "White flowers reflect a lot of light," says Thai. Try to plant them in spots near your house, such as around a porch or door.
Alliums can grow in partial shade, but Thai advises at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight. If they get any less, they will bend toward the sun.
After the blossoms fall, the seedpods remain. Thai keeps them on the stems until August and then cuts them for flower arrangements.
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Thai planted only 15 alliums in this 10- by 10-foot parterre, leaving room to emphasize their unique look.
White daffodils planted at the base of the alliums bloom first, but their blue-green foliage remains.