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Onions that produce flowers, beautiful to bizarre, fresh or dried.

Onions that produce flowers, beautiful to bizarre, fresh or dried

Why grow onions for cut flowers? For one reason, spikes of ornamental allium last and last--two to three weeks or more when fresh, almost forever dried.

Also, alliums multiply readily from seeds and offsets.

If you live in deer or gopher country, here's another plus: the animals seldom bother alliums.

Best of all, their pompon shapes and sturdy stems are superbly suited for the unconventional mix of modern bouquets. You can choose from about a dozen kinds, with flowers ranging from beautiful to bizarre on stems from 6 inches to 5 feet tall. Some kinds have a pleasant perfume; others have a slight onion aroma when bruised or cut.

Growing is easy

Now is the time to plant. Prepare a bed of loose, well-drained soil in a sunny site. Plant small bulbs 2 to 3 inches deep, medium-size 4 inches deep, largest ones (such as A. giganteum) 8 inches deep. For best results, water regularly; many aliums can survive in dry soil, but stems will be shorter. Weed as needed during the growing season.

Depending on the species, alliums bloom between spring and late summer. For fresh flowers, you can start to cut when heads swell into globes, and the buds, though still tight, begin to show color.

You can dry alliums, too; kinds with papery rather than fleshy flowers work best. To make interesting curves in the stems, bend and tie them into the shape you want while still supple; let dry, then cut.

Names are a mouthful, flowers are fun

Here are a dozen to choose from; those with an N after the description are available in nurseries. Numbers refer to mailorder sources listed at the end.

A. aflatunense. Giant, chive-like globes top 2 1/2-foot stems. (N; 1, 2, 3, 4)

A. atropurpureum. Black-purple, 2-inch flower clusters on 2 1/2-foot stems. (3)

A. caeruleum (A. azureum). Fluffy, cornflower blue puffs top 1- to 2-foot stems. Mix with other small, delicate alliums (A. moly and A. neapolitanum). (1, 2, 3)

A. christophii (A. albopilosum). Giant 6- to 12-inch puffballs of star-shaped lavender flowers grow on 15-inch stems. Striking fresh or dried. (N; 1, 3, 4)

A. giganteum. Densely packed bright lilac balls 5 inches across on 5-foot stems. (N; 1, 2, 4)

A. karataviense. Pinkish globes 2 to 5 inches across on 1-foot stems stand out against grayish foliage. (N; 1)

A. moly (A. luteum). Small, loose clusters of fleshy bright yellow flowers top foot-tall stems. Naturalizes well in mild-winter areas, dies if winters are cold. (N; 2, 4)

A. neapolitanum (A. cowanii). Pictured above left, it's similar to A. moly but with white flowers on 2-foot stems. (2, 3, 4)

A. ostrowskianum (A. oreophilum). Loose clusters of 2-inch-wide rose-colored flowers on 10-inch stems. (N; 2, 4)

A. rosenbachianum. A slightly smaller, shorter version of A. giganteum. (N; 1)

A. roseum. Pink, fleshy flowers in a 2-inch globe top foot-tall stems. (N; 1)

A. sphaerocephalum. A favorite of florists, two-tone green-and-purple heads expand into 2-inch-wide lilac globes on 2-foot stems. (N; 2, 3)

Mail-order sources

These companies sell at least six kinds:

1. Anthony Skittone, 1415 Eucalyptus Dr., San Francisco 94132; catalog $1.

2. Park Seed Co., Greenwood, S.C. 29647; free catalog.

3. The Country Garden, Route 2, Box 455A, Crivitz, Wis. 54114; catalog costs 50 cents.

4. White Flowers Farm, Litchfield, Conn. 06759; catalog $5.

Photo: Airy white flower heads of Allium neapolitanum top sturdy, 2-foot stems. These cut flowers lasted two weeks

Photo: For a contemporary look, combine purple-and-green globes of drumstick allium (A. sphaerocephalum, in vase) with seed pods (aloe), buds (Matilija poppy), and greenery
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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