Alliums stand proudly above the other flowers in a garden, with their spherical blooms in shades of purple and white rising over long, leafless stems.
Children are often mystified by these flowering onions, and the temptation to pick and play with them can be hard to resist.
There are varieties of alliums in all sizes -- from the tiniest chive flowers to the majestic 'Mt. Everest.' Most grow from bulbs, which can be planted in fall to bloom the following spring and summer. In suitable conditions, they will rebloom from year to year.
Martha enjoys arranging alliums from her garden from early spring through early fall, because the different varieties bloom at various times throughout these seasons. While alliums complement almost any arrangement, they are most striking when arranged by themselves. A very tall vase can hold the largest of the alliums -- five or six blooms will make an impressive arrangement. For the smaller flowers, such as chive flowers or a single Allium karataviense, old-fashioned glass medicine bottles make striking holders.
Allium 'Mt. Everest'
Among the tallest of allium varieties; with 3-foot stems and large globe-shaped white blooms.
A. rosenbachianum 'Album'
The white form of a popular purple-rose allium; 3 to 4 feet tall.
A. 'Rien Poortvliet'
Named for a Dutch artist; stems as tall as 3 to 4 feet and large amethyst flowers.
A classic purple allium with 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-foot stems.
A. aflatunense 'Purple Sensation'
A brilliant purple flower; has the appearance of hundreds of star-shaped flowers when the bloom is open.
A pale, silvery pink flower; a shorter stem but large dense bloom.
Chives; small purple flowers common in kitchen gardens.
Once thought to be an allium, but actually a close cousin; dangling, tassel-like flowers.