There are 2 species of summer-blooming Allium growing in our garden’s Left Bank and Lamppost Beds: the native Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) and the exotic hybrid ‘Millenium’.
An uncontrollable urge to plant ‘Millenium’ overtook me after seeing it bloom in masses at the Lurie Garden. This happens a lot after I see a plant for the first time at Lurie. Results are mixed, because our garden tends to rich soil and part shade, while Lurie has lots of full sun and lean soil.
Despite this, ‘Millenium’s’ performance has been more than adequate at our home. I would say only that in part shade it loses some of its intensely upright quality after a hard rain.
Pollinators seem to love both ‘Millenium’ and Nodding Onion. In fact, it can be difficult to take a picture of either without pollinators in the frame. Nodding Onion is also a host plant for Hairstreak Butterflies.
You could ask if one of these plants is superior to the other for the home garden. I would argue for planting both. Nodding Onion flowers later than ‘Millenium’, extending the period of bloom. It’s more tolerant of part shade, I think. In fact, it can be grown in the shade of Black Walnut trees. On the other hand, hybrids like ‘Millenium’ are supposed to be more effective in big masses.
The drooping flower buds of Nodding Onion are intriguing, but by the time they are fully in bloom they tend to lose their nodding quality. Nodding Onion flowers are initially closer to white, but mature to a sort of lavender (that can look pink in the right light) very similar to ‘Millenium’. The flowers of both look good when contrasted with orange Daylilies or Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa).
The City of Chicago gets its name from the Algonquin word for Nodding Onion: chigagou.
In recent years, hybrid summer Alliums like ‘Millenium’ have become pretty common at garden centers. This is a fine thing, but it does give Nodding Onion a bit more of an appeal for plant snobs like me, simply because they are more unusual as garden plants.
And now for a complete change of subject. I’ve noticed that butterflies and other flying insects like to use the pavers of our new driveway for basking. Can anyone identify this species of dragonfly?
Shortly after taking the Dragonfly picture I had this chance encounter with a Black Swallowtail. Those same pavers make for an interesting background when out of focus.
Do you grow summer-blooming Alliums in your garden? Do you have a favorite?