JOHN’S JOURNAL

How to Grow Alliums with Ease…..

Over the last few years at Holden Clough these have certainly become one of my favourite plants, prior to that my experience of Alliums was very much a 1 year wonder, fading away and eventually diminishing in size and disappearing, Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ always seemed to have this habit, so undefeated we then trialled growing a few new varieties at Holden Clough and we have never looked back since!

Right plant right place is the rule and as far as the Alliums go that couldn’t be more true, firstly you need to pick the right variety at Holden Clough we only grow 5 varieties, however there are over 250 varieties available out there! The ones we succeed with are Allium ‘Purple Rain’ with its 2.5ft stems of large purple flowers, with exceedingly strong form and it grows that well you will be able to dig it up and split it in its 4th year. Then there is a super white variety called Allium ‘Mt Everest; with its 4ft tall stems of pure white flowers, it makes a splendid statement below a pleached hedge, then just as tall with large purple flowers is Allium ‘Globemaster’, then there is Allium christophii if you want something a bit smaller, but it bears the biggest flowers of all in a silvery purple, and finally for later colour towards Summer there is Allium sphaerocephalon with it’s grass like foliage and ruby coloured pom-pom like flowers. All of these will thrive! So with regards to position it’s just a case of giving them an open aspect, they dont mind a clay soil as long as you open it up with a little organic matter when you plant they’ll be happy and they are also very hungry, so an annual feed of Vitax Q4 is essential and just feed them at the same time as you do the rest of your plants, March/April time.

Allium leaves can also be tidied up once they approach flowering time and you can cut off any brown, you will find that the foliage almost fully dies back once the flower stem is up, and this is green so it takes over the job of photosynthesizing. They look incredible when in flower, a sea of pom poms and don’t be tempted to plant them in clumps, they look best when scatter planted through the bed individually giving a sea of purple or white spheres. After flowering more often than not people are tempted to cut off the old seed heads a little too soon, you must wait for all the green to disappear, this way the energy has gone back into the bulbs for next year, you will find that they will clump up in time as well, then come summer when everything else is in flower they are tucked away in their beds lying dormant ready to spring up and flower their socks off the following year! So if you haven’t got any in your beds then you really need to ask yourself why?!

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

You can send in and find out the answers to those gardening problems…..

Can I plant Alliums now?

Yes, now is a great time so you don’t miss a season, at Holden Clough we grow around 5000 pot grown Alliums every year outside in our Growing Field, this way you can position them in your borders in leaf and also in flower helping you also get instant impact. Then leave them to die down during the summer and they will come back even bigger the following year, sometimes single bulbs can come back with 5 flowering stems!

How much sun do they need?

They like a south or west facing aspect, so a full day of sun or an afternoon is fine. You can also grow them in pots giving you the flexibility to position them wherever you like, then in the Summer you can overplant your pots with Summer bedding with the bulbs tucked away below ready for the following year

How do I dry the flowerheads out for indoor use?

Simply cut them down once the green stems have turned brown, then take them inside it’s that simple, you don’t have to hang them upside down or anything and they are ready to use straight away in vases and flower arrangements, simply on their own they are stunning and you can also spray them gold or silver during the Winter.

Plant of The Week

Allium ‘Purple Rain’

An incredible variety with large purple heads of flower in May and it’s so easy to grow and reliably comes back year on year and is clump forming. Repeat through your perennial planting for early height and colour and it’s seedheads dry out beautifully and can be used indoors