Foolproof Fall Bulbs

Ornamental alliums are easy, affordable and exquisite!

by Leslie Land • Next Avenue

It’s September. The garden is a near-impenetrable maze of tomatoes, beans and squash interwoven with dahlias, zinnias, cosmos and basil plants so big they’re flopping into the paths. Dill and poppy seed heads on leafless brown stalks pop up here and there in the jungle to add a piquant hint of decline.
We’re not talking the “sweet disorder” of the classic poem here. It’s more like vegetative bedlam, and it happens every year because I long ago declared that August 15 would be No More Make-Tidy Day. From that moment on, I continue harvesting, but I stop staking, deadheading and neatening paths. Weeding — at least of the obsessive type — is also on the don’t-bother list.
This used to work fine. I got to enjoy the food and flowers without worrying about chores, and just before I got sick of the chaos, an early September frost would come to start clearing the decks. But more recently, the timing of frost has changed: It gets later and later every year.

This hasn’t altered the “down tools” date, but it has made me even more grateful for fall bulbs. If I couldn’t look forward to the annual ritual of setting the fat globes in the earth and dreaming about starting fresh with a clean(ish) slate, I think I’d go out of my mind.
On the assumption that you also take comfort in this reliable form of delayed gratification (and are thus already well supplied with opinions about tulips and daffodils), today’s cheerleading will be reserved for ornamental alliums, the members of the onion family grown for their flowers, not their seasoning powers.
There are dozens available, in a wide range of sizes and shapes from the small wispy golden allium flavum to giant Globemaster, the one with solid purple flowers the size of soccer balls. 
Here’s why I adore ornamental alliums. Plus, more of my favorites arranged by bloom season.

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Photo courtesy of barbaradudzinska/

First Published Fri, 2012-08-31 12:23

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