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’.

Allium ‘Millenium’ blooming in the Left Bank Bed.

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.

Allium ‘Millenium’ in the light of a summer sunset.

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.

Honeybee and Skipper on ‘Millenium’
2 honeybees share ‘Millenium’ flower cluster.

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.

Nodding Onion and ‘Millenium’ looking south toward some ‘Egyptian Spice’ Daylilies.

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).

Nodding Onion

The City of Chicago gets its name from the Algonquin word for Nodding Onion: chigagou.

Nodding Onion flowers: a closer look.

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.

Some kind of Skimmer?

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?

Black Swallowtail on Zinnia

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?

17 Comments on “2 Onions and 2 Critters”

  1. No.
    I still have not tried them. I will not until this autumn at the earliest. I think that is when they get planted. I will likely wait until the following autumn though. That is fine, since I can not decide on which cultivars to try. Whatever I plant, I would like it to be perennial. I do like ‘Mount Everest’, and some of the big sorts. However, nodding onion has appeal too, just because it is a straight species. Our native onion is rather weedy. There is enough of it around that I do not need more of it in my own garden.

  2. The Black Swallowtail looks stunning in that photo…..I can’t say much about Alliums at the moment, but was most interested in Chicago’s name coming from the Algonquin word Nodding Onion…I’m keeping that for a quiz question one day.

  3. I planted a few native Nodding Onions under Norway Spruces several years ago. Without any supplemental water, they have steadily increased in that challenging location. The pollinators are all over them when they bloom.

    Very interesting about how Chicago got its name!

  4. I love Allium cernuum and bought the bulbs some years ago. They were beautiful but did not survive in my garden (I confess I may have inadvertently dug them out or planted something on top of them). This spring I sowed seed in a pot and I have little onions, but I do not know how long it will be before they flower. Amelia

  5. I have grown. Millenium for the first time this year. It was completely new to me and I have just one plant in my new flower bed. It has been flowering for weeks already and is in full sun. I am very impressed with it and can imagine it looks fabulous in the Lurie Garden. Yours are really pretty in your semi shaded bed and I may be tempted to buy a few more now after seeing yours in a group. I wonder how quickly they spread….

  6. I loved the few ornamental onions that I planted up in the west border. I will definitely be adding more – do you find that they spread? I suppose I should check if my particular varieties self seed – I left the seed heads in the border, just in case, ’cause the more the better, as far as I’m concerned. And what an interesting fact about Chicago!

  7. Absolutely fascinating learning the origin of Chicago’s name! Loved that dragonfly, utterly stunning, looks like a model for a plane. Those pavers are worth their weight in gold, that butterfly shot is stunning. I do like both of your onions. xxx

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