Gardening Glimpses


I probably fell in love with the allium the first summer the Madison Central High School academic competition team went to New Orleans, and that would put it back about 20 years ago.

We rode the streetcars incessantly, and it seemed that every home had pots of this tall, perfectly round, and absolutely perfect blue flower.

I looked for it every June, but never for some reason thought about trying to grow it myself.

My narrow version of the allium lasted until just a month or two ago. Brent Heath said, “I’m writing an article on something else besides daffodils, the allium.” When I looked at the new Heath catalog, which you can do as quickly as you can go to the catalog page, I was amazed at the diversity. And in the newest Horticulture magazine,

Kathleen LaLiberte, who gardens in Vermont, about as far as you can get from New Orleans, and several climate zones north of Brent and Becky’s Virginia farm. She, too, shows all sorts of alliums, sizes and  shapes and forms and colors, and she has a beautiful display of pictures, evidently hers since she does not credit any other photographer, showing them in the New England landscape.

She, too, like Brent, says they are increasing in popularity, citing as the principal reasons the facts that they do not need much water, they are not palatable to deer, and they feed the bees.


Watching the Weather Channel, showing NOLA now cleared of the ravages of the Intel-61 hurricane, remind us that deer aren’t roaming the streetcar tracks, and any tall stalks there a week ago are snapped off at the base. But the bees will return, given a bit of space.

And then when I went back to the online catalog, the Fall Planted, Spring Bloom one for 2018, I discovered a bit more magic about this plant, commonly known as the “ornamental onion.” You can order them right now, and also in the spring, which means of course that you can plant some pots right now. And do it all over again in early spring.

The colors vary greatly, and so do the shapes. The cultivar Ambassador looks more like my old favorite, except too purplish. The species that suits my definition of blue is the species Allium caeruleum, but it is loose and floppy.

But if you like variety, you have all shades of blue and purple and lavender, yellow and red, and even some very useful whites. I think I read, on a Facebook posting that of course I can’t find when I want to quote it, that the Perennial Plant Association has given its award for the coming year to the allium’ Firmament.’

When you add that to the triumph of a rather new Heath triandrus, ‘Starlight Sensation’ as the top flower at the Philadelphia Flower Show last spring, (and very deservedly so - it was already my top favorite new flower of the season), well, the Heaths have an eye for good flowers, and great ones.

You can of course do all your ordering and researching online, but that’s not for me. I want the catalogs right there in front of me, and you need to call their toll-free number 877-661-2852 and get on their regular mailing list.


One caution: don’t think, because they will offer these alliums in both catalogs, that they will all be still available when the springtime notion strikes you. One or two are already marked “Sold Out,” with two months left before they close the offices December 15 and give all the leftovers to worthy projects. And when they begin again (and I’m talking to myself now), choose not only the aurum and the caladiums you want, and do it quickly.

Because springtime isn’t all that far away, no matter how sodden and dreary our souls are over this recent weather.

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