Allium 2010

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Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14
Allium 2010

I always suggest that is important to retry growing the same species from multiple sources. Too often our knowledge of any plant species is from a single mass-produced source, certainly true with bulbs, depriving our knowledge of the true breadth of variability of a plant species. Even something as common as nodding onion, Allium cernuum, can be had in amazingly diverse and beautiful forms (and nondescript ugly forms) from such efforts.

So it is true with Allium caeruleum, widely cultivated and surely mass-produced from a single clone for many decades. The problem is, the plant widely available in fall bulb bins at local nursery centers is an inferior form; flowers are indeed a good dark blue, but there's a tendency to produce an odd bulbil or two or three in the inflorescence, the flower heads often with amusingly weird aberrant florets.... multi-petaled ones, fused florets, or situations where a stamen morphs into a pedicel and sprouts one or more flowers from within a flower . Invariably the widely cultivated type is short-lived, only flowering well the first year after planting, dying out quickly in subsequent years. They're cheap enough to buy, but I was tired of these bad habits and replanting bulbs every couple of years.

Then one day, Panayoti Kelaidis sent me a photo of this blue allium growing at Denver Botanic Garden (DBG), and I couldn't believe my eyes... a gorgeous form with brilliant azure blue flowers in heads larger than normal, and taller too. Afterwards, he sent me a good crop of bulbs (thanks Panayoti!). Determined to get a good form established, I planted bulbs out in 7-8 spots around the garden, hoping to find just the right spot to the plant's liking. And sure enough, the bulbs only really prospered in one location, the successful one now forming basal offsets and bulblets to try again in other locations. Here are some photos of what I have dubbed the 'DBG Form'.

1. Allium caeruleum in a mixed planting at Denver Botanic Garden, beautiful!
2. close-up of the same planting
3. In my garden, a close-up of a single flower head in 2008, 3" (7.5 cm) in diameter.
4. In my garden, several azure flower heads in 2009, at early anthesis with intense color of young buds.
5. In late summer, bulblets can be found at the stem bases bulging friom the basal leaf sheaths, harvest and replant.
6. Spring growth 2010 shows much dividing and increasing, some of the bulblets replanted near mother plant are sprouting.
(Aster pilosus growing nearby, see: http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=159.0 )

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

This is the best caeruleum I have ever seen! I try to establish alliums at my summer cabin, especially those flowering in late June - early August. There it is more summer warmth and sun than at home and a bit drier too! (If you get too many bulblets ... let me know!)

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

After A. paradoxum var. normale, the first of the Alliums to bloom here each year, the second is Allium zebdanense.  The first photo shows how this species makes a fine clump of narrow arching foliage in a woodland setting. The second photo shows it growing in full sun at early anthesis.  In sun it will flower earlier and go over more quickly, often with the foliage turning yellow after a couple days in early retreat to dormancy, whereas those grown in shade or part shade will flower later, last longer, and maintain the attractive narrow arching green foliage much longer.  Nearly sterile in the form I grow, it'll occassionally makes a bit of seed and a few welcome seedlings show up. 

Photos 3-4 were taken in the garden of my friend Marsha Russell, where a marvelous moss and lichen covered outcrop serves as backdrop to a fine stand of thus showy allium growing in a mostly shaded location.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

First of the Acanthoprasum allium are blooming here, and judging from my 10 year photo records, I'm in need of doing some propagation and replanting to reinvigorate declining plants.  Large clumps of A. karataviense 'Ivory Queen' have all but disappeared, although they are cheap enough to buy a fresh supply in the fall.

1-2  Allium karataviense 'Red Globe' - the cultivar name given before var. henrikii was published, but evidently they are the same.  The first two photos show this really attractive form in the garden now, the leaf and flower size smaller than in previous years.  For what it is worth, I am maintaining the name 'Red Globe', as photos I've seen of var. henrikii, show it to be quite variable is size, density of the inflorescence, and flower color; always red toned but some are much deeper colored than others, so I'm of the opinion that this plant is best named A. karataviense var. henrikii 'Red Globe' to distinguish it from less worthy forms of var. henrikii.

3    Allium karataviense 'Red Globe' in 2008

4    Allium karataviense 'Red Globe' in 2000, with foliage of other karataviense color forms in background.

5-6  Allium species aff. ellisii, at early and mid anthesis.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Mark, do you feed your Alliums? My Alliums like karataviense tend to grow smaller and smaller and ultimately stop flowering. Only wild ones and some smaller species proliferate.
Here's one of the few wild onions of Norway, A. scorodoprasum. Not the showiest but stout and majestic when the tallest plants reach 1m or more in a few weeks.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

externmed
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-03-01

Allium thunbergii certainly presents no permanence problems here; but the color is just a bit off to my taste,
? slightly muddy mauve purplish, rose pink.  I don't recall my source and am not sure if it was supposed to be Ozawa, but I think not.  Is Ozawa a clearer color?  Or is there variation in color?  Have the white too, which is white.
On the other hand, Allium oreophilum 'Agalik Giant', had stunning flowers, though the inflorescence careened off to one side.  Plant did not show the next spring.  Planted 2 more last fall, no show in the spring.
Charles Swanson NE Massachusetts USA z6a +/-

NE Massachusetts (New England) USA  zone 6 (5B to 6B)

gardens visited, photographs:  www.flickr.com/photos/wildmeadow

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Hoy wrote:

Mark, do you feed your Alliums? My Alliums like karataviense tend to grow smaller and smaller and ultimately stop flowering. Only wild ones and some smaller species proliferate.
Here's one of the few wild onions of Norway, A. scorodoprasum. Not the showiest but stout and majestic when the tallest plants reach 1m or more in a few weeks.

An overdue response.  No, I don't feed Allium plants, in fact, I don't feed any garden plants.  I have seen Allium karataviense in botanic gardens looking monstrously large and over-blown, the enlarged leaves and abnormally large flabby inflorescences no doubt due to planting in rich soil and heavy feeding.  I have noted upon return to these same gardens in subsequent years, the same gross displays were not there, probably dying out from over feeding.  I believe in growing bulbous plants, such as A. karataviense, hard and lean.

A. scorodoprasum is as you say, a stately plant, one of the larger species lending scale and vertical substance to a garden... I like such plants, even if not the showiest in flower.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

externmed wrote:

Allium thunbergii certainly presents no permanence problems here; but the color is just a bit off to my taste,
? slightly muddy mauve purplish, rose pink.  I don't recall my source and am not sure if it was supposed to be Ozawa, but I think not.  Is Ozawa a clearer color?  Or is there variation in color?  Have the white too, which is white.
On the other hand, Allium oreophilum 'Agalik Giant', had stunning flowers, though the inflorescence careened off to one side.  Plant did not show the next spring.  Planted 2 more last fall, no show in the spring.
Charles Swanson NE Massachusetts USA z6a +/-

Hiya Charles, I find such things as color preferences, and even plants in general, often come down to personal likes/dislikes.  I don't find the color of Allium thunbergii to be a bit off in any way, I rather like the color very much.  I have grown numerous A. thunbergii forms, and 'Ozawa', and the color is pretty much the same rosy-purple color.  It should be noted that the white form is really a clean white, without a trace of other colors, and is very good indeed.

Now, regarding A. oreophilum 'Agalik Giant', I feel somewhat the same way you do about A. thunbergii, with the color being a bit off in my opinion... but let me explain.  First of all, I got mine as A. oreophilum 'Torch' years ago.  Janis Ruksans assures me this is the same as 'Agalik Giant', and that I got mine under a then provisional name early on... although I still call mine 'Torch'... I like that name.  The flowers are bigger, showier, and in more dense heads than regular A. oreophilum, the cultivar a fine plant to be sure.  However, the flowers, like many Alliums, have a "bloom" or dusty coating on the flowers, which under certain light conditions can have the effect of making the flower color appear dull.  On certain days, and in certain light, the flowers strike me as extra fine, and at other times, less so and a bit off.  But regardless, this is a fine variety that far surpasses A. oreophilum for garden worthiness.

Sorry to hear your plants of 'Agalik Giant' did not come back for you, twice!  Makes me wonder if indeed the 'Torch' selection is identical to 'Agalik Giant' after all, as 'Torch' has been with me about 8 years (too late at night to go run out in the rain and check my label to verify the stats :D).  I have in years past, scratched in seed around the parent plant, to increase the small colony.  I include a few photos taken recently. Send me a personal message and I can save you some seed.

It should also be noted, that in years of sufficient moisture, the thick blue-grey leaves will remain intact at flowering, but under drier conditions, such as our many recent weeks or warm to hot weather without much moisture, the foliage definitely started into early senescence and yellowing by the time the flowers appeared, a common oniony occurrence.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

externmed
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-03-01

Thanks Mark for the information.  My photo was taken under heavy morning dew so less than optimal for comparison.
"In the past someone suggested to Antoine Hoog that the typical Agalik was unsightly (with its twisted stem) and suggested that he picked a straight-stemmed form of what was otherwise a very good plant.
Torch is the result, a super plant selected by Antoine."  (rareplants.co.uk)

(Mark McD:  Here's the link to the RarePlant.co.uk site with Allium oreophilum 'Torch':
http://www.rareplants.co.uk/product.asp?P_ID=3288&strPageHistory=related)

Random additional allium news bits: the plant I bought as insubricum from Evermay last year, came back larger (with 5 growths) this spring, but still small.  (Not on list this year) A second I bought at the same time was DOA.  Someone was selling a "bigger growing" A. cyaneum this spring and seems to be 8" at a glance.  Haven't really had time to investigate.
Charles Swanson NE Massachusetts USA

NE Massachusetts (New England) USA  zone 6 (5B to 6B)

gardens visited, photographs:  www.flickr.com/photos/wildmeadow

externmed
Title: Guest
Joined: 2010-03-01

Agalik  (with decidedly crooked stem--leaned over onto the ground)

NE Massachusetts (New England) USA  zone 6 (5B to 6B)

gardens visited, photographs:  www.flickr.com/photos/wildmeadow

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

Previously I posted information from Dr. Eric Block, Professor of Chemistry, University at Albany, SUNY, and his recent book "Garlic and Other Alliums - The Lore and The Science" published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
http://www.srgc.org.uk/smf/index.php?topic=4757.msg145659#msg145659
I recently heard from Dr. Block and received updated information about the book and various speaking engagements and radio/tv interviews, so I'm posting that information here.

The hardcover version of the book has sold out.  However a paperback (softback) version is now available ($39.95 in the U.S., 25 GBP in the UK).
hardcover - http://www.rsc.org/shop/books/2009/9780854041909.asp
paperback - http://www.rsc.org/shop/books/2010/9781849731805.asp
Dr. Block  gave a free lecture on Allium science at the New York Botanical Gardens on Friday, July 2, at 11 AM.  This venue has already happened, but for a 23-minute audio podcast of NPR's Science Friday, click this link:
http://podcastdownload.npr.org/anon.npr-podcasts/podcast/510221/12827625...

For those in England, Dr. Block will be giving an illustrated public lecture at the Chemistry Centre of the Royal Society of Chemistry in London on July 15 at 18:30. While the talk is free, advance registration is required since space is limited. At this event, Dr. Block will also be signing copies of his book.  For more information or to register, click here:
http://www.rsc.org/AboutUs/ChemistryCentre/Events/saladbowl.asp?CFID=446...

Also, for those in Scotland, Dr. Block has been assisting BBC-TV on a feature they are producing on onions for a program called 'Jimmy's Food Factory 2', BBC Scotland. He does not know when it will air, but believes it should be of interest to Scottish Allium-lovers.

Other news of interest to those in the UK and the EU
A new environmentally-benign garlic-based pesticide has just this week been fully approved by the UK regulators for horticultural use, such as with root crops like carrots and parsnips, as well as on turf grass in golf courses and soccer fields, etc. EU approval has also recently been received.

The product is now commercially available from a small UK company (full disclosure: Dr. Block is a scientific consultant for them) called ECOspray. The ECOspray website is currently being updated with the new information and it may be a week or more before it is up to date. Here is the link: http://www.ecospray.com/index.php

More information on Dr. Eric Block
e-mail: eb801@albany.edu
http://www.albany.edu/chemistry/eblock.shtml

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

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