June 15, 2010

You Can't Beat these Drumsticks (Allium)

With a garden featuring spires of hummingbird mint, I like to use globes to add variety and interest. The round blooms of ornamental onion (allium) are perfect, but most flower here in April and are gone by the time the hummingbird mint (agastache) blooms in summer.

In autumn 2009, I planted two test patches of drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) in an area of agastache 'Cotton Candy', 'Blue Fortune', 'Summer Love', 'Salmon & Pink' and 'Heat Wave'. 'Cotton Candy' was the first agastache to bloom—and the fluffy pink spires have been going strong since April.

Each test area is planted with 25 allium bulbs. I waited in anticipation to see the burgundy umbels of the drumstick allium with the agastache. The magic has happened and I'm thrilled with the resulting combination!

There's much more than agastache with the alliums—Brazilian sage (salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue'), autumn sage (salvia gregii 'Dark Dancer'), shasta daisies (leucanthemum x superbum 'Paladin'), cornflowers (centaurea cyanus) and blue flax (linum narbonense 'Heavenly Blue') fill out the rest of this garden area.

This is the same area shown in the story Meadow Madness that highlighted the annuals adding color while waiting for the summer perennials to bloom.

Allium sphaerocephalon is suitable for USDA zones 4-10 and blooms in June or July, depending upon the zone. The blooms are reported to last for 3-4 weeks, but I've found the foliage and the forming umbels to be attractive while awaiting the burgundy color. The 2-3 foot high stems should be straight in full sun. In partial shade, the stems may lean or sprawl to find the sun. The blooms attract bees and butterflies. Plantings should multiple quickly and the seeds can be collected. If that's not enough—allium is deer and rabbit resistant.

As more agastache varieties begin to bloom, I'm happy with the other color combinations, too. The 'Blue Fortune' blooms are down the slope from the allium, but I was able to snap a photo (below) to show the potential for planting these closer together in the future.

I will definitely add more drumstick allium this fall. I'm thinking how great they'll look with coreopsis, coneflowers, stachys—so many plants!

Leucanthemum x superbum 'Paladin', agastache 'Cotton Candy' and 'Summer Love' were provided by Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc. Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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