Allium sphaerocephalon

So I goofed. Nothing new there. I’m a numskull on a regular basis. But I figured I’d confess my stupidity in public so you could all have a good chuckle, call me an idiot, and learn from my blunders. Not that any of you would ever commit this folly.

I weeded out a handful of Allium sphaerocephalon the other day. I mean, why is it going around masquerading as chives, anyway? That’s exactly what the young foliage looks like when it emerges. And I was just being efficiency personified. As we all know, chives has a penchant for seeding itself from here to oblivion. I was on a weeding roll, it was getting dark, and I was getting dull. What can I say? Duh.

Fortunately, dusk put a damper on my spree before my crop of A. sphaerocephalon was completely decimated. Thank goodness, because I dote on drumsticks. I feel that they’re pathetically underused and overshadowed by the bigger, bulkier, more vaboom flowering onions available. True, the reaction to A. sphaerocephalon in no way matches the cheering and swooning that accompanies the blossoming of ‘Ambassador’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Globemaster’, and the other bulky balls. Drumstick is an apt description for this allium — the flower heads are maybe 2 inches in diameter on tall, thin (but rigid), 2-3 foot stems. But A. sphaerocephalon begins blooming after the other alliums, filling a gap in the bulb parade. It serves a function to bulk up the garden between June/July when perennials are in transition. And because they aren’t show-offs, the drumsticks fit seamlessly with a natural planting. The wine color also works with a variety of perennials and also herbs (see the artemisia combination above from The Tangled Garden www.tangledgarden.ns.ca in Nova Scotia, I think it’s ‘Valerie Finnis’). This year, I’m pairing drumsticks with ornamental grasses (fortunately, they didn’t fall victim to my overzealous weeding).

If you can’t plant A. sphaerocephalon in quantity, don’t bother. They will seed themselves around, by the way. But planting a dozen or so just won’t create any sort of statement whatsoever. Fortunately, they’re extremely reasonably priced and the bulbs are small enough to be tucked into the ground with a finger — no special bulb-inserting tools necessary (they rarely work anyway, but I’ll leave that rant for another blog). Pollinators adore them.

I only have two problems with A. sphaerocephalon. You guessed the first — the emerging thread-like foliage is a dead ringer for chives, grass, and a host of other marauders unwelcome in the garden proper. But also, A. sphaerocephalon doesn’t have that doggy, wide, brown-tipped, wilted foliage to contend with when the flowers are performing. However, after the show is over, this allium doesn’t dry up into a handsome ray of dried goodness. Instead, it’s a ball of gray. Granted, it’s a small ball of gray, but it’s got to go.

Although some of my drumsticks might have taken a hit, there should be plenty left to keep the rhythm section rolling this coming summer. Tell you what — I’ll take a picture later in the season for proof. Meanwhile, ‘fess up. You’ve done something equally clueless once in a while, right? Or is it just me?

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11 Responses to Allium sphaerocephalon

  1. Pingback: Plant of the Week: Alliums (Ornamental Onions) | Stately Kitsch Plant of the Week: Alliums (Ornamental Onions) | For the modern older home owner.

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