Which brings me in rather timely fashion to that purple pom-pom headed lollipop of a flower which graces fashionable borders throughout the spring and into summer – the allium, and most particularly, to the one known as Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'. The allium family includes onions, garlic, leeks and chives – whose flowers and growth habit all bear a marked familial resemblance – but of those alliums grown for ornament, 'Purple Sensation' is undoubtedly the most ubiquitous. No doubt this popularity stems from being easy to grow, inexpensive (twenty five bulbs will cost you less than a ten pounds), and providing a reliably cheerful display. The stem, between 60 and 75 cm in height, requires no staking and the globe comprising myriad individual violet florets grows to 10cm in diameter. The whole flower dries particularly well, though if this is your intention it’s a good idea to hang them upside-down when drying so that the many black seeds have the opportunity to fall out before you scatter them all over your carpet.
|Allium 'Purple Sensation' in the borders at Great Dixter|
This allium is particularly unfussy and will cope with most situations, except waterlogged soil. It grows and looks remarkably well in a dry garden setting. Bulbs should be planted 10 to 15 cm deep (a depth of roughly three times the size of the bulb) and a similar distance apart for the best effect. Although not necessary, the job would be rendered distinctly less back breaking by the purchase of a long-handled bulb planter, such as the one made by Joseph Bentley. I must remember to buy one myself.