Saturday, 19 July 2014

A String of Onions

We have white bluebells in our garden - except that they're not. Our lookalikes are Three-cornered Garlic, Allium triquetrum, a pretty but rather invasive onion introduced to Britain from the Western Mediterranean. They are easily recognised for the stems have a sharply triangular cross-section.

Allium triquetrum. My garden, 31 May, 2014

Chives in our Byfield garden. 1 June, 2014

When I came to think about it I realised that we grow several species of onion in our garden, but none for culinary use.

One of these is Chives, Allium schoenoprasum. Yes, I know it has culinary applications, but we never use put it to use; perhaps we should. Surprisingly it is a native British plant but confined to the western and northern parts of England and to Wales. Its dainty purple flowers are well worth a place in the garden, and bees love it.

Far more impressive - and equally beloved of bees, - is Allium aflatunense, sometimes sold as Allium hollandicum. At about 60-90 centimetres high it can easily hold its own in a border and makes an impressive cut flower (tip: add a drop of bleach to the water in the vase to control the smell of onions).

I also have a patch of Ramsons, Allium ursinum, in the garden. They were here when we moved in and, although they are hardly spectacular, I allow a few to persist and have introduced a few to Byfield Pocket Park on the grounds that they are native to Northants and, according to Druce's 1930 "Flora of Northamptonshire", occurred in this area at Badby.

Honey -bells in our garden, Byfield.
1 May, 2014

In a border I have a few plants of Honey-bells, Nothoscordum gracile. It was once wrongly, due to a misunderstanding, called Allium inodorum and is clearly closely related to onions. It even, despite its specific epithet of inodorum, has an alliaceous smell. I was surprised to learn recently that it is a noxious weed in some parts of the world; for me it behaves nicely. Again, bees love it.

I have grown this Persian Onion in a pot.
Byfield, 8 June, 2014

Arguably one of the most spectacular of onions is Allium christophii, sometimes called the Persian Onion. The large globular inflorescence is more open than Allium aflatuense and the "petals" (many botanists play it safe and refer to "perianth segments") are glossy. I grow it in small quantities but when  - in maybe 5-6 weeks - we move to a new home, I may make more use of it.

Allium sphaerocephalum in our garden, Byfield.
18 July, 2014
Finally -  for it is now mid-July -  comes Allium sphaerocephalon, otherwise known as the Round-headed Leek.  Here it is in my garden being visited by three Marmalade Flies, Episyrphus balteatus. I wouldn't grow it, but the bulbs were a "freebie" with something else, so I stuck them in and they flourished. They have all the charm of a purple lollipop on a wobbly stick. But, as we see, hoverflies love them, as do bees and, at a pinch, we can eat the bulbs; they are perfectly edible.


No comments:

Post a Comment