Bulbs Dried flowers

Extending the Beauty of Alliums

Spray-painted alliums add punch to the summer garden. Photo: Jana Last, Flickr

The genus Allium offers a host of plants of interest to gardens. First, such edibles as onions, garlic, leeks and chives, then summer and fall blooming perennials like A.‘Millenium’, A. senescens ‘Blue Eddy’ and A. thunbergii ‘Ozawa’.

Drumstick alliums in bloom. Photo: http://www.americanmeadows.com

However, the most widely grown ornemental allies are fall-planted, late-spring or early-summer flowering bulbs, including a whole host of tall alliums bearing beautiful balls of blooms on a straight stem, like A. giganteumA. ‘Purple Sensation’, A. ‘Globemaster’, A. ‘Mount Everest’ and many, many more. 

Drying on the Spot

You can just leave the seed heads as they stand for summer-long interest. Photo: NIgel Dunnett, Twitter

It’s the latter that are of interest here: the tall drumstick alliums. As the flowers fade (by then, the leaves are long gone), they leave upright stalks of dried flowers slowly turning into seed capsules, dried flowers you can harvest for indoor decoration … or leave standing in the garden for the summer.

I just leave them where they stand: wheat-coloured balls of beauty that last until winter.

Paint Them for Extra Color

These are not blooming alliums, but spray-painted seed heads. Photo: http://www.canr.msu.edu

However, the latest trend is spray paint drumstick alliums in bright colors for added punch.

You can use a paper plate with a slit in it to spray seed heads where they stand without coating nearby plants with paint… but I still suggest doing this indoors. Photo: http://www.canr.msu.edu

I’ve seen people do this on the spot, directly in the garden, but then you tend to get spray paint on nearby plants. It’s therefore best to harvest them and spray them indoors, in a workshop or in a garage. You can then put them outside again, inserting the solid stalks into the ground. Spray paint helps preserve them, so you can then bring them back indoors in the fall as a winter decoration, then put them outdoors again the next summer. 

Just choose the color or colors of your choice. Photo: ellishollow.remarc.com

Spray painting alliums: never thought you’d be doing that, did you?

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

7 comments on “Extending the Beauty of Alliums

  1. No, I never heard of that. 🙂

  2. Jan Bushfield

    I have mid-size alliums…no idea what cultivar…and they seed around too freely to leave them standing in the garden. Their stems are not strong enough to just insert in the heavy soil of my garden after painting either. BUT…they look fabulous inserted into a Christmas tree! Just like little starbursts or fireworks. And I love them in a vase too.

  3. Hi, if i were to just leave them to spread their seeds, would i get new and more alliums the next year?

  4. Oh my! No you didn’t! This is excellent. We did it to dried lily-of-the-Nile flowers a long time ago, and I am still embarrassed about it. (It was the neighbor’s idea.) They did not stand up straight, even though I plucked off all the pods. These alliums look weird, but I would like SO do this (if I grew alliums), and then blame the neighbors.

  5. Patricia Evans

    My alliums have already fallen over and seed themselves so prolifically that I cut off the flower heads and toss them. And I detest the painted versions, so that isn’t gonna happen here.

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