Your June garden needs more alliums

This Ward’s Island garden whispers to me (loudly): a garden can never have too many alliums.

When you invite 70 garden bloggers to Toronto in early June 2015 (after a bitter winter and a long, cool spring), you’d better hope the gardeners have planted alliums – the ornamental onion – to fill the potentially gaping hole between spring bulbs and June fruitfulness. Fortunately for us, many did.

Allium bulbs can be pricey. If you don’t have any yet (or want more), get yourself online now, as I did last summer, and order from Flower Bulbs R Us, a Canadian mailorder bulk supplier. The bulbs will arrive at planting time. I gain nothing from telling you this, except a smug I-told-you-so next June.

Speaking of alliums, here’s what our bloggers saw in different spots around the GTA.

On Ward’s Island, deep purple alliums make a delightful companion to an unrelated bulb you might like, Camassia, which is actually in the asparagus family. Camassia or quamash is a North American native, to boot.
Common chive is also an allium (Allium shoenoprasum). It’s both an edible herb – besides the leaves, the florets taste chivey and look pretty in salads – and an ornamental plant. Imagine a bed of chive interplanted with its larger cousins. (Which I don’t have to imagine, because I saw it this past weekend at Through the Garden Gate in Lawrence Park. Very effective.)
This strip of white and purple alliums, edged in grasses, with purple kale at the base, was one of the hits of the bloggers’ four days of garden tours at the Toronto Fling. The flowers and foliage capturing the morning light here is perfection.
Of the many, with a stress on “many,” plant combinations to photograph in Marion Jarvie’s garden (check that link for her next open garden date), this pairing of alliums and clematis was a popular capture.
Later, our bloggers descended like locusts arrived at the Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden the weekend before the annual Peony Festival. Just in time to enjoy the inspired marriage of peonies and alliums, whether in separate beds…
Or charmingly intermingled, as here. (However, the bridal parties there for wedding pictures probably found the gardens less charmingly intermingled with two busloads of bloggers weilding cameras.)
A private garden in the Bluffs varies shades at the blue-violet end of the spectrum, using Allium pom-poms, spiky sage (Salvia), the rounded, dark foliage of leopard plant (Ligularia), masses of Siberian iris, and the first flush of a thyme lawn.
Brides notwithstanding, it is nice to add bloggers to the mix. Here among the alliums at the Toronto Botanical Garden are Buffalonian Jim Charlier of Art of Gardening, Ohio’s Kylee Baumle of Our Little Acre, and Nancy Patterson, Garden337, of Michigan. Just three of 70 bloggers to come to the Fling from 21 States, 2 UK counties and 2 Canadian provinces.
A trickle of alliums flows beside the curved water feature in the TBG’s Westview Terrace, where we had our closing dinner. But I want them to plant more, more, more! Don’t you? A garden can never have too many. Even one as small as mine. Although, it helps to plant alliums amongst other plants that will hide their lank foliage.
And, wouldn’t you know, our Fling hotel, the Fairmont Royal York, had put alliums in their lobby,
just for us. Or so I like to think. The tall spiky flowers are the glorious foxtail lily (Eremurus).


  1. I love Alliums, and fortunately we can grow them here. I've seen a few other photos of that strip of white and purple Alliums edged in grass. Very striking. I might add some Alliums to the grasses growing in my gravel garden. It is a good tip to plant them with something that can hide their ugly dying leaves.

    1. What's interesting to me about that "edged in grass" picture is the use of Calamagrostis as a parterre hedging — rather than the more typical boxwood. Soft and low in the spring and summer, it would make a tall column of grass later in the summer and fall, adding privacy when the patio area might actually be used. No one has commented yet on this, but I think it's an inspired substitution.

  2. Same here in Niagara Falls too. The Allium are such a delight in June, especially with iris and peonies. My garden has a number of all those planted as well. Many gardens in the Toronto area had beautiful displays of Allium. I loved the combinations of plantings with them as well.

    1. Toronto gardeners are cottoning on to what works in early June. The architectural form of alliums is great, too, and they even look good after the flowers fade. I'm planting more – even though they don't always come back in my more-challenging spots.

  3. Yay for alliums! Two of my favourites are Allium bulgaricum, formerly Nectaroscordum siculum bulgaricum, aka Sicilian Honeybells, and the blue allium, A. caeruleum, I think it is. They are fabulous.

    1. I have what my brain still registers as Nectaroscordum, too. Love them. And Allium cristophii happily reproduces in my sandy back yard.

  4. An excellent salute to a great bulb. I remember how I used to shiver in horror when I looked at the prices at planting time – but now am so glad I made the investment. With the exception of a white variety, they all have naturalized and look gorgeous. The last one blooms in October – 'Ozawa' – so pretty in pink with the fall leaves.

  5. Lovely! I wondered if Toronto gardeners went all out to plant alliums for us. They're so BIG! I'll send you one of my pictures! (And "descend like locusts" on-target)

    1. Thanks, Linda. I'd love to see your allium pic. One of my fave alliums (and it's huuuuuge) is Allium schubertii — like fireworks on a stick, and a wonderful dried seed head.

  6. They were beautiful and a wonderful sight to see. I wish I had thought to save them to spray paint as Jim has done and you might try!

  7. Oh – Your comments about the Oshawa Botanical Gardens made me laugh out loud! Being an edible gardening egghead, I knew about ornamental alliums, but hadn't really given them much thought until the Fling – I really must get some into my garden.

  8. Just moments ago I was editing down my photos from the islands and see I took the very same photo you opened this post with. Would you believe I don't have a single Allium in my garden? It's true! And yet Scott (super fan of the Alliums) still speaks to me…

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