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Souped up onions are pretty tasty; They are ready to explode across our gardens and the surprising beauty of alliums in full flower is enough to bring tears to your eyes.

ORNAMENTAL MENTAL MENT onions don't immediately sound like an exciting or attractive pro- position. Yet they are some of the most glamorous bulbs you could add to a summer display. During the next couple of months in the run-up to the Chelsea Flower Show, you'll see more and more of them popping up in gardens through spring perennials or in formal displays.

At Chelsea itself, they'll be disporting themselves in marquee displays and making an exhibition of themselves in show gardens - their drumstick ower heads heightening the rhythm.

It is their sculptural structure even more than their colour (mainly purple) that has made them so popular. Both in ower and in seed their usually tall stems support a pompom of small owers. Sometimes it is a lollipop, sometimes a starburst, almost invariably a sphere as the individual owers within each head take their place, symmetrically arranged to ensure each ower has an equal ensure each ower has an equal opportunity of being pollinated. opportunity of being pollinated.

Most thrive in a sunny site and ost thrive in a sunny site and well-drained soil.

ere is no dispute that they have [euro]rst-class owers - but their foliage is almost always tatty. So they need companions that will cover their imperfections, yet provide a perfect foil to show otheir bold globes and allow the owers to fade while still providing a scaolding for seed heads.

Interesting foliage can be the solution. e bold leaves of hostas or rodgersias would work with their purple globes. Chaerophyllum hirsutum 'haerophyllum hirsutum 'Roseum' - a pink cow-parsley 'Roseum' - a pink cow-parsley relative -owers at much the same relative - owers at much the same time as Allium hollandicum. And because the pink of its umbels of tiny owers has blue in it, there is real empathy between them.

e rich green ferny leaves of the chaerophyllum hide a multitude of sins before and after the allium's climax. Any umbel or other plants with dainty or [euro]lmy owers are suitable companions. Not all alliums are big and bold. If you garden in pots or have limited space, there are a host of smaller, neater alliums ideal for growing between alpines or as individuals in their own container.

We have grown Allium beesianum here at Glebe Cottage for years.

ough it manages to fend for itself and increase gradually, when it is grown in its own terracotta pot, you can really appreciate its considerable charms. Its leaves are bright green and needle-thin and make the perfect foil for the copious heads of dainty blue owers. A real fairy plant.

Allium avum is one of those plants that, once you've seen it, you have to grow. Glaucous stems 8in high support heads of lemon-yellow owers that open at dierent times for a roman-candle eect. It creates splashes of scintillating citric colour in July, when most rock gardens seem to have fallen asleep. seem to have fallen asleep.

at the top of our shady garden At the top of our shady garden there is a platform that juts out into there is a platform that juts out into the sunshine. ere is no real soil the sunshine. ere is no real soil here but the space is covered with here but the space is covered with pea gravel and has collected residual debris from the trees round about. A host of Allium pulchellum (its name means beautiful, and it is) has seeded in it.

e majority are purple but here and there, the exquisite white 'Album' has made highlights. riving on neglect, this happy self-sustaining community is one of the prettiest sights in July.

ough there are some alliums that can be divided - chives and wild garlic being two of the most obvious examples - most of us introduce them into our gardens as dry bulbs. Sometimes they are big bulbs and often quite expensive, as in Allium giganteum. Sometimes, though, they are relatively cheap.

For a few pounds, you can make a real show of Allium sphaerocephalon, the roundheaded leek (although its ower heads are more egg-shape than spherical). Weave it among clump-forming perennials, geraniums and their ilk or even those with more willowy stems - Gaura lindheimeri or amsonia are equally eective partners. Planting about 3in deep in odd numbers and random positions works best.

If, like us, you're on heavy clay, don't despair - onions love high fertility so you're halfway there. When planting, work grit into the base of the planting hole so they'll never be sitting in water - you don't want soggy bottoms.

ask Carol QTHERE are some really good oranges around at the moment. Can I grow their pips? Maureen Baxter AYES and it's a really fullling thing to do - great for children, too. Push pips into pots of quality compost, water once and leave ina warm, bright place indoors. Most should sprout. Do the same with any citrus fruit. It's unlikely you'll get a crop but, with luck, they'll ower and ll the place with heady perfume.

Orange blossoms are |pretty and perfumed got a few bushes of red-stemmed cornus.

QWE'VE ey've been lovely - should we prune them right back? Gary Howard ATAKE out half the stems each spring - you'll have plenty to look at through summer and ne new stems to give bright colour next winter. Repeating this process, always cutting out older wood, means your shrubs will be reinvigorated.


There's a pompom of flowers - sometimes |a lollipop, other times a starburst

Orange blossoms are |pretty and perfumed
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 21, 2015
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