‘Purple Sensation’ (Allium aflatunense) is the earliest of our ornamental Alliums to bloom. This year, they burst into flower just over the past week.
We have 2 drifts of ‘Purple Sensation’ in our garden. The one that’s been around longest is in the Back Garden along the west hedge. ‘Purple Sensation’, like most Alliums, is supposed to want full sun. However, it has prospered in this spot that gets part sun at best, so it must have more shade tolerance than is generally recognized.
I planted 10 bulbs here in 2009, and they have since multiplied to at least 50. So far I haven’t seen any need for dividing this growing host of Alliums.
Alliums are generally very attractive to pollinators and ‘Purple Sensation’ is no exception. (Plus, the rabbits leave it alone.) There’s a tiny pollinator on the flower above – can you see it? Though a pollinator friendly plant for North American gardens, ‘Purple Sensation’ has its origins in Central Asia.
Here the flowers are catching the light of the late afternoon sun.
After its flowers fade, the strap-like leaves of ‘Purple Sensation’ starts to die back. Though the stems stay mostly upright and the dried flower heads look good, companion plants are needed to prevent the bed from becoming dominated by decaying foliage. In this spot I have been experimenting with plants that will fill in after ‘Purple Sensation’ has had its turn in the spotlight.
These second act plants include Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ (Anemone x hybrida) and several shade-tolerant asters, such as White Woodland Aster (Eurybia divaritica) and Heart-leaf Aster (Symphiotrichum cordifolium).
We also underplant the ‘Purple Sensation’ in this bed with a number of shorter spring-flowering plants. These include False Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), and Lily-of-the-Valley (Convalaria majalis).
Our second clump of ‘Purple Sensation’ was planted just 3 years ago near the ‘Donald Wyman’ Crabapple. It started with 25 bulbs and hasn’t spread much as of yet, but it looks pretty happy. This clump is underplanted mainly with Starry Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum stellatum).
In addition to spring-blooming Alliums like ‘Purple Sensation’, there are lots of wonderful summer-blooming Alliums (including 2 species I just planted for the first time). Those, however, will be covered in future posts.
They are so beautiful when planted in drifts, even more beautiful when they make drifts all by themselves!
Love plants that spread in the garden – within limits.
Free plants and happy plants are the best!
I really like the combination of the alliums and starry Solomon’s plume. I see alliums in plantings here — especially in traffic medians — but they’re a light blue, and not so attractive to my eye as your purple ones.
Maybe Allium caeruleum.
The color’s right. They’re a beautiful plant in any color.
I love your displays of alliums! I, like you, have an old established, ever-expanding clump and new ones planted last fall, both in part shade. I was at Wal-Mart for leaf/lawn bags and the bulb display caught my eye – 30 purple sensations for $10! Hard to resist. So I didnt, heh heh. There are a lot of pricey alliums available, but this variety remains my fave for price, height, color, bloom time, and longevity. I find that the leaves on mine start dying off even before the flowers open, their one iffy characteristic.
30 bulbs for $10 – that is hard to resist. ‘Purple Sensation’ is great, but there are also lots of great summer Alliums.
Oh, they are just lovely. I hope mine multiply like that.xxx
I hope so, too!
Gorgeous. I tried them once and was unsuccessful. Did you purchase your bulbs locally or on line? Thanks.
I usually buy from John Scheeper’s.
I would think its large leaves would catch a lot of light and give it some shade tolerance, as you’ve noted. It’s a very pretty plant.
That makes sense as an explanation.
Your alliums look gorgeous. I planted these too – in my Butterfly Bed (full sun) last autumn and they have been open for a week or so now. I love them, but the leaves got singed by our mini heatwave after Easter and strong drying winds, so yours look a lot fresher than mine!
We’ve had so much rain this year and the weather has stayed cool. Most plants have fresh foliage and longer-lasting flowers as a result.
I have to have allium bulbs this fall. I have a lot of teeny things I grew from seed, and then mixed up what was what. I love them, and yours are particularly nice. I hope to find Moly, a yellow kind, of bulbs nearby. I don’t mind mail order, but the postage is what I resent!
Yes, mail order plants often seem so affordable until you see the postage.
So gorgeous; I am totally jealous. I fell in love with alliums in a catalogue once and ordered a bunch of them. None survived more than a single season. I suppose they don’t care for my climate. Yours are perfect, and I love the companion plants you have chosen for them.
I understand that bulbs generally are a challenge in the South.
Alliums happen to be one group of bulbs that I do want to try. Not much naturalized here where winters are so mild, and digging and chilling is such a bother. I would be so pleased if alliums grew as perennials.
We have a couple of native Alliums in this part of the country, but many Alliums come from regions with very dry soil – so perhaps they would be happy in California.
Dry soil is not the problem with bulbs naturalizing. The difficulty is the lack of chill. Apparently, alliums do not need much.
Love your underplantings of the Alliums, Jason! I would not thought of using the Japanese anemone – I will have to try that.
Jury is still out on how well it will work.
Your Alliums are such a striking purple colour, I’ve only seen wishy-washy blue ones.
It’s a good color, I have some lavender-blue ones that flower in summer called ‘Summer Beauty’.
Really nice! I don’t have drifts of ‘Purple Sensation’ yet (just planted them Fall 2017), but I hope it will happen. I like the fact that this one blooms so early. And of course the bright color.
Yes, it does bloom quite early for an Allium.
How wonderful to have them in drifts like that! Mine has multiplied generously over the years, too, and I love them!
You must have them in a good spot.
HI Jason .. I love alliums and yours are looking wonderful .. I have Purple Sensation as well and I am hoping they will multiply as nicely as yours have .. I also do the same thing with under planting .. I think it really stretches out the attractiveness .. and yes ! I also love the seed heads to stay as long as possible because they do look so pretty, as much as the fresh bloom I think.
I am going to order more allium because so far I cant get enough of them ! LOL
Your pictures are perfect !
Thanks! I can’t get enough Alliums either, though that is true for many plants.
Alliums always decorate a garden with their bright colors, Jason. You grow a lot of them, wonderful!
Thank you, Nadezda!
So lovely – can’t wait to get some alliums into my west border – now that I’m almost done planting it up, I’m hoping to add a lot of bulbs this fall, including alliums. It’s often worth trying plants in less than ideal conditions, as you just never know. We’ve had a hydrangea blooming in a south facing bed with zero supplemental water ever since we moved here. Even during summer droughts that lasted weeks on end, they have done just fine.
You might want also want to try Drumstick Allium and ‘Summer Beauty’, both of which bloom in summer.