Aliums are a great spring blooming bulb sending up pretty purple orbs that sit atop of tall straight stems. I look forward to seeing them float above their neighboring plants. I always plant them en masse in the fall for a show color in June; however, the biggest problem with Alliums is that eventually the show stops. Their petals fade and the once lovely spheres become drab green. At this stage, most gardeners would just deadhead the spent blooms and hope to see them again next year.
I have, however, learned how to make alliums ‘bloom’ again! While at Cornell, I was hired to help tend Minn’s Garden, an amazing parterre garden just outside the plant science building. The garden is named for its creator, Lua A. Minns, Cornell’s first female floriculture faculty. The garden is beautiful all year round, but it’s certainly at its glory in the summer. And yes, dozens of Alliums stretch up each spring to welcome the summer recess. It was here that I decided to try to extend the Alliums’ beauty and surprise my professors with the results. Though Cornell’s plant research is done to exacting protocols, this trial was done in the early morning hours with a hope and a prayer, a can of spray paint, and a paper plate. The results were fun, if not a little controversial among the purists, but visit there in late June, and you may find some orange, red, or blue Allium to greet you. (The photo of the multi-colored Alliums was taken in Minn's Garden.)
What started as an experiment in Minn’s Garden has become a perennial favorite of my clients. I have to admit that I get pretty excited when I plant these for the first time at a client’s garden knowing that they will be in for a double treat. (The photo of the purple painted Allium is from a client's garden.)