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 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. Tovah,
    I wish I could say it was only you, but I pull up hard-to-find treasures during spring clean up all the time. I have to keep reminding myself, if it is growing in a prime location, I put it there on purpose. You get to know the root configurations of these plants pretty quickly. On the other hand, I have babied some spectacular weeds, thinking they were some gem that the voles ate last autumn. Duh here too.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      I’ve got a theory on all this, Michael = If something has a really deep, thriving root system — it’s probably a weed. But when you’ve begun to probe the roots, it’s too late, isn’t it? Wish I could train my weeds to stay away from the primo locations. Let me introduce everyone to Michael Gordon — he’s the dynamo behind a bunch of brilliant public gardens in his little New England town. Plus his own garden is the town jewel. Where Michael gardens, everyone benefits. Tune into his blog = for a peek at his accomplishments.

  2. Lisa from PA says:

    Drumsticks! My favorites! Thanks for this post~ I love all my alliums and am drooling over some bulb catalogs right now which sell quite a variety. There’s always room for another handfull of alliums. I have so many weeds, I’m actually getting pretty good at what is a keeper and which are going to the heap. I did transplant something a year or so ago quite gingerly even, thinking it was a rare something or ‘nother a friend gave me. It turned out to be a weed. A well watered, fertilized, mulched, and much loved weed. No wonder I’m tired! Tovah~ thanks so much for the link to Michael Gordon. I will have so many blogs to read and admire, I will never get back to my weeds, er, garden!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      How many times have we all done that, Lisa? Fertilized, coddled, primped a total weed…They know where to come to get the white glove treatment. I’m still trying to sort the chives from the Allium sphaerocephalons. Did you get this last rain earlier in the week? We were going dry, believe it or not after all that snow. But now everything is popping. I have a Magnolia stellata hybrid in the front yard (it’s got the growth habit of a saucer magnolia and the flowers of a stellata) that’s popping. Got my fingers crossed that it won’t frost tonight.

  3. Laura W says:

    Not only have I done something equally clueless, I have done the same exact thing. But only once! I can still remember that moment when, with only a third of the bed left to go, I remembered planting them the previous fall. ACK! Now I leave all onion-y looking things alone.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Bet they all filled in again, Laura. Am I right? I was just thinking this afternoon that A. sphaerocephalon could easily become a weed. A pretty weed. But a weed. It seems to be spreading like wildfire. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Love your blog = What’s better than snooping into someone else’s shopping basket?

  4. Lisa from PA says:

    We did get the rain last week, Tovah. It’s made weeding a bit easier but it’s created a haven for more of them! Your magnolia sounds lovely. Would you consider a future post on that~ would love to see some pictures and learn more about magnolias in general. The neatest thing coming up in my planting beds right now is a deep pink corydalis in full bloom and no taller than 6-7 “. Can’t remember the name but think I ordered it from Brecks a few years ago. Makes me smile when I look at it through the kitchen window. 🙂

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Ask and it shall be given, Lisa. One magnolia blog — coming up. Give me a couple of weeks for my Magnolia ‘Goldfinch’ to come into blossom. I’m right along side you cheering for corydalis. I bet that plant snobs give it the thumbs down because it’s so rambunctious. But how can you not love something that swings into blossom so quickly in spring? Mine go dormant by midsummer. How about yours?

  5. Heidi S says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this! I think I have accidentally removed at least half of these (which reminds me that I need to add some more to the fall bulb list). In my yard I haven’t had to good fortune to have these self-seed.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Give them a couple of years, Heidi, they’ll be fruitful and multiply. Still, I put in an annual order anyway because they never pop up exactly where I want them. And the bulbs are so reasonably priced compared to the other alliums. And they really are wonderful bee plants. In fact, they lure the full complement of pollinators.

  6. 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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