Thursday, July 28, 2011

Onions. Enough said.

Or has there been enough said about onions? Most chronic gardeners have tales to tell about them: like violets, onions tend to be either horrendous weeds or annoyingly hard to get going. There are no end of fairly dullish, weedy onions. But truth be said there are vast numbers of terribly choice, terribly distinctive and terribly hard to find species. Mark McDonogh, Allium guru of the World (I believe he has no peer) has championed onions much of his long, rich horticultural life. His Plantbuzz website has a whole section devoted to onions. He has written a two part article in the recent Rock Garden Quarterlies that are enough seduce even the biggest Onion-doubter.

I start this blog with an onion in seed: there are no end of seedy onions in my garden now, and this is as good of time as any to remind you to collect some seed: I managed every smidgeon of this particular plant, of which I have three portraits...

The first is of the plant in seed, the second two were taken in late spring when it was in bloom, one in oblique light, the other in back lighting. Conventional wisdom says flowers and garden should be taken in oblique light: it is somehow truer or honester or something like that. Backlighting is dramatic...true. But in a sunny climate like Colorado, drama is the norm! I wish I had photographed it in full sunlight at mid day too for comparison purposes...

What is this plant? I have had several determinations from several people. Mark believes it is a form of Allium tolmiei: it came to me as a Californian species under a different name. It is in the top handful of new treasures that have bloomed for me this year: any clue what it might be for sure? It is quite different from the other Allium tolmiei I have grown, albeit this could be a variable taxon.

And are you a backlighter or an obliquer?

Obviously, there can never be enough said about Allium!


  1. I don't care so much what it is, I need some seed of this beauty! ;-) Maybe I'm a side-lighted obfuscator, but I do believe that Allium tolmiei is "a [very] variable taxon". But then again I could be wrong. Nice feature Panayoti, I hope in a few years to feature some interesting Kazakhstan onions!

    Your friend, the Onion Man.
    Mark McDonough, in good ol' Massachusetts

  2. Onion people: Two years ago I planted a bulb of A. caeruleum that bloomed well this year. Now there are 3 bloom-sized bulbs plus a plethora of loose, gravel-sized bulblets at the base of the old flower stem. The original bulb (now three)has pushed its way 'til its top is above the soil line. Question?: Is this normal? Question?: Is this indicative of a dryland bulb? Question?: can this species be grown in Denver with no supplemental water?

  3. I believe this onion is Allium douglasii from the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington. One of the best!


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