Know your onions; Gardening; Alliums are garden stars.
Byline: with Adrienne Wild
ALLIUMS are such stars their flamboyant flowers will fit into every scheme, from wild meadows to space-age theatre sets and containers.
These ornamental onions are, like daffodils and crocus, bulbs that flower in late spring or early summer and need to be planted in autumn.
Despite their exotic good looks they are easy to grow. They will thrive in well-draining soil that is slightly acidic, so add a good amount of organic matter before planting to improve drainage and hold on to enough water.
The planting depth should be two to three times the diameter of the bulbs, which means if you have a 5cm bulb, you would plant it 10-15cm deep.
Because the leaves are at the base of the plants, alliums do not take up much room, so they can be squeezed between leafy perennials and pushed up through ground-hugging plants.
The shorter varieties are also great alternatives to tulips for partnering with wallflowers, while the taller varieties sit nicely with foxgloves, honesty, sweet rocket or hardy annuals, which can be sown in autumn to be in flower at the same time.
When it comes to varieties, the purple drumstick heads of Allium giganteum, Allium Allium christophii and Purple Sensation are simply the best. All will look wonderful behind Geranium Johnson's Blue and in front of blue delphiniums or poking through the blood-red flowers of Rosa moyesii.
To bring out the metallic sheen of the star-shaped blooms, plant a handful of bulbs alongside silverleaved plants such as catnip, pinks, lavender, Convolvulus cneorum and Artemisia stelleriana.
Alternatively try 'Think Purple' and combine the 90-120cm tall Allium giganteum with purple-leaved shrubs such as the smoke bush Cotinus coggygria or the elderberry Sambucus Black Lace, along with bold drifts of tulip Queen of Night.
When the flowers eventually fade they will remain interesting throughout autumn, when they become encrusted with a rind of frost or wrapped in lacy spiders' webs.
Before the seed heads deteriorate, pick and dry some for indoors.