There are three patches of spring-blooming ornamental onions, or Alliums, in our garden.
The oldest is a patch of ‘Purple Sensation’ in the back garden.
Last weekend they were approaching their peak of bloom.
I’ve been surprised by how ‘Purple Sensation’ has been fruitful and multiplied in our shady back garden. From an initial planting of 25 bulbs, they have spread to fill almost the entire bed.
Spring-blooming Alliums are ephemeral, so you need a companion plant that will fill in after the Alliums have faded away. In the back garden I’ve tried False Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla) for this purpose, with mixed results.
On the one hand, the little blue flowers poking up through the Allium foliage are sweet without a doubt. On the other hand, the Brunnera doesn’t really thrive because it is shaded by the Alliums, so it doesn’t get dense enough to be an effective groundcover.
This is looking into the back garden from the entrance. You can see we’re also using ‘Snow Swan’ Peonies as companions for the Alliums (there’s three, one of them at the bottom center of the picture.
Last fall I planted a second patch of 25 bulbs, also ‘Purple Sensation’, just north of the ‘Donald Wyman’ crabapple in the front garden.
They seem to be happy in their new home! This patch gets a lot more sun. We’ll see if it spreads like the one in back.
For this clump of Alliums I seem to have stumbled upon an excellent companion, already present in this bed: Starry Solomon’s Seal (Smilacina stellata).
Starry Solomon’s Seal blooms at the same time as ‘Purple Sensation’. It spreads by rhizomes, but is not difficult to remove. It’s tall enough so that it doesn’t get smothered by the Allium leaves, but not so tall that it shades out the Alliums.
Pulling back a bit, here’s a picture of ‘Purple Sensation’ surrounded by Starry Solomon’s Seal. Oh, and Starry Solomon Seal is a Midwest native (unlike ‘Purple Sensation’).
Finally, there is a clump of Allium ‘Globemaster’ growing in the Parkway Bed.
This patch started from five bulbs that I planted years ago. It has spread, but not nearly as fast as ‘Purple Sensation’. However, the size of the flowers has declined as the bulbs have reproduced.
‘Globemaster’ flower heads are supposed to be up to 10″ wide. Not sure if mine were ever that big, but they are less than half that now. Judy says she doesn’t mind, though.
Here’s a picture of the Parkway Bed with ‘Globemaster’ in bloom.
I’m very fond of our spring-blooming Alliums, but lately I’ve become even more enthusiastic about the Alliums that bloom in summer. However, that is a subject for another post.
Do you grow spring-blooming Alliums? Do you find that they tolerate shade? What kind of companion plants do you use?