One of the best parts of any fair or harvest festival is the food. And a blue-ribbon winner is always the deep-fried blooming onion. At over 1,000 calories and enough heated oil to stop your heart, it is admittedly not the healthiest choice. You can do your heart a favor and grow real blooming onions in your garden, the alliums.
The huge Gladiator Allium is stunning, with enormous, 6-inch flower heads of violet-blue tipped with silver atop strong 60-inch stems. Gladiator blooms in June and July, after most other spring bulbs. Like all alliums, it is carefree, and not attractive to deer or rabbits.
Alliums will grow even in poor soil, and once established, they naturalize and grow into large colonies.
The slightly smaller blooms of Purple Sensation alliums feature whimsical 4-inch-wide lilac-purple blossoms on top of gracefully swaying, 24-32-inch stems. Purple Sensation blooms a bit earlier than Gladiator, often starting in May. These make excellent cut flowers.
Add a bit of pizzazz to your garden with the smaller Drumstick allium. The hardy, 2-3-foot stems are topped with round flower heads that open green and slowly change to a deep burgundy as they age in July and August. Drumstick alliums provide great cut flowers, and they can also be dried for use in fall and winter arrangements.
For an out-of-this-world blossom, look no further than the show-stopping Schubertii allium. This flowering onion has huge, 14-inch blooms with small, purple-red blossoms. It blooms from May into June. Schubertii has up to 100 striking purple florets that radiate from a central ball. It is a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds.
Fall is when you plant alliums. They are a great hit with children, because the kids will love growing flowers that can often get tall enough to tower over them.
Like all flower bulbs, alliums need a cold period to grow their roots and prepare for spring. One thing to keep in mind is that all flower bulbs hate wet feet, that is, sitting in soggy soil. Avoid planting them in low, swampy areas or soils that puddle up and don’t drain well.
You can improve soil drainage by adding organic material such as compost, peat moss, bark or aged manure.
Alliums grow best in full sun or partial shade. Plant your alliums deep enough that they won’t be affected by severe winter temperature variations above ground.
Dig your planting hole three times as deep as the bulb is high. Set the bulb in pointy side up. Allow plenty of space between bulbs, 6-8-inches apart for the larger ones and slightly closer for the Drumstick alliums. Water them well right after planting to settle them in and close up any air pockets.
Once your alliums have finished blooming, don’t cut off the foliage. The leaves need to absorb sunshine and provide nutrition for next year's blooms, so let the leaves die down naturally. Only remove the dead leaves after they are totally withered and yellow.
For a spectacular fall treat, go to a fair or harvest festival and eat a blooming onion.
For a spectacular spring and summer show of blossoms, plant blooming onions now in your garden.