July 16, 2010

Two Little Onions

I discovered two perfectly delightful little onions that are so different from the more recognizable big globe allium balls.  One for spring, and one for summer.

The spring onion is Allium moly, called golden garlic.  It's a small plant that is best used in big drifts.  Individually it's not very significant, but when massed, you get bright, clear yellow sweeps that are cheerful in spring.

I like them lining the walk where the little guys lean out to say hi and give you a wave as you walk by.

And in the larger garden from afar they add sunshine to what would be a moody purple and mauve grump. The color is the bright yellow of earlier forsythias and daffodils, but brings its cheer into the late May garden.

The allium moly bulbs are tiny, about the size of a grape, and they will spread into quite a colony if they like where you put them.  Like all onions, the foliage gets tired looking after flowering, and handling the foliage makes your hands smell like bad cooking for days.

The second little onion, Allium sphaerocephalon, blooms in summer.  It's called drumstick allium or nodding onion, because it has a tight oval little head at the end of an absolutely straight stick stem and, well, because it nods.  It really does, in the most delightful way, bobbing and wobbling in the breeze. 

The color starts out soft green morphing to reddish, then finishes a deep purple wine.  The blooms are delicate, but in a clump their vertical presence is strong, and their wine red color is wonderful in front of a sheaf of hot colors like orange daylilies, or nodding over a bright orange milkweed, or in front of Mardi Gras heleniums.

The key with both these little alliums is to plant a lot of them together to form clumps of color and form.  Then go up to them and look closely... each individual onion has such a cute bloom.  I like these unassuming plants in my garden; they're quiet, understated little bulbs with a lot of character.

Allium moly in MoBot's plant database
Allium sphaerocephalon on Rob's Plants site (some really good pictures)


  1. These and many other alliums add great interest to gardens, particularly those prone to deer munching. So far I've not lost a single allium to deer.

    Love how your moly 'add sunshine' to your flower bed.

  2. I had drumstick alliums for awhile. They spread quite thickly but stopped blooming despite being in full sun. I gave up on them. The yellow allium is terrific. That bright lemon yellow certainly perks-up a garden spot.

  3. I think alliums are delightful, but i don't know anyone who grows them in my area. That's a mystery, as wild onions do extremely well, and so i would think the more refined cousins might also. I haven't yet tried, but after seeing yours, i feel motivated to order some.

  4. Joene, deer won't touch onions, and I've had success raising tulips interplanted with the unpalatable onions.

    Lisa, I hope my drumstick onions don't stop blooming like yours did! I like them too much.

    Deborah, I'm surprised alliums aren't popular in the south. Try them and see how they do for you.


Sorry about requiring code verification -- I experimented with turning it off to make commenting easier, and I got too much spam. Thanks for taking the time to comment, and to type in silly codes. I appreciate hearing from you.