Friday, 10 June 2011

Exploding Alliums, Batman!*

The spiky space-flowers of Allium christophii

I rarely do anything by halves and  with my current drive to finish planting up the garden, my plant bender continues. With the hefty swag of roses planted this spring establishing nicely, I am filling the spaces between. Before Christmas, I received a very exciting box of bulbs from De Jager containing, inter alia, alliums.
Now I have not had much success with alliums so far (I know not why, probably buying rubbish bulbs in the first place) but they are a wonderful thing. The first time I exhibited at Chelsea, I left the showground on the final day staggering under the weight of flowers blagged from nursery exhibitors and went home to live in a room that, for a while, resembled a floral marquee.
So having got the fat, promising-looking bulbs into pots and soil, I loved and nurtured them; watered them, coaxed them, glared at them and generally willed them to perform. And perform they have. Allium christophii is a particular favourite. Big, bold, spiky it is a mass of hard little space-flowers and is making its presence felt in the new mixed border with floppy roses and lychnis coronaria. And in the cool border too, with phlox and geraniums. Allium nigrum (kinda white with green bits) is pretty fab as well and I have high hopes of Allium caeruleum which is a delicate blue effort. Later than the others, it is not out yet, but it is looking good – sproinging out a few starter buds. I just hope that it can stand the competition of its rather vigorous herbaceous neighbours.
Watching alliums come into flower is a bit like making popcorn. One little bud bursts into a wiry purple flower, then another, then pop pop pop, give it a shake (optional), there is a sudden explosion of flowers and the job’s a good un. I’ll be doing that again.
By the way did anyone see Springwatch the other night? Watched it with my ten year old. Brings a whole, unexpected, new dimension to explaining about the birds and bees...

Update: And for those engaged in Naomi-watch, I was on BBC Radio Berkshire this morning, am in The Gurdian Weekend today (11th) and can be found in Kitchen Garden Magazine and Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Life Magazine every month. Enjoy.

*This is lazy of me. I have already had ‘Sparkling Snowdrops, Batman!’ as a title, but if bat-flowers work, don’t fix ‘em...