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Closely related to the onion family, Alliums also known as ornamental onions are grown for their spectacular flowerheads.
The spherical heads of the tall varieties resemble a starburst with strong vibrant colours from lilac, pink, purple and silvery grey through to white.
Alliums grow from 30cm up to 200cm with flower heads from tiny pompoms to huge spheres of star shaped flowers.
The smaller types are excellent for rock gardens and the front of the border. While the taller varieties create focal points in formal beds, cottage gardens and border displays.
Wild Garlic Allium Ursinum are native to the UK and can be found in woodland glades and shaded areas, alternatively plant in amongst perennials and roses which are vulnerable to aphids and other pests as the pungent odours deter these insects.
Allium flower heads can be left to dry on the plant to create a feature in the garden or used indoors as a dried flower during Autumn and Winter.
The globes look stunning when covered with an early frost, particularly Allium Christophii. Alternatively, cut the flowers fresh for an eye catching indoor arrangement.
Alliums thrive in either sheltered or sunny sites in good, well drained soil. They can survive in a more sandy site, but to get the really large flower heads, they will need to be well mulched. Plant from mid September through to November for the best results and plant 15cm deep.
During late summer large clumps can be lifted, divided and replanted to stop overcrowding and encourage strong, vigorous flowering.
Generally alliums are healthy plants but can suffer from the same diseases as other members of the onion family such as downy mildew and white rot in excessively humid conditions and occasionally onion fly. The best advice would be to spray adult flies and remove any infected plants as the maggots get right down in the soil and are a devil to reach. Removing the plant will stop them from pupating in to adults.