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Onions for the flower garden

Alliums adorn the spring garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Alliums adorn the spring garden. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Every spring, I’m always a bit surprised by the ornamental onions that pop up amid the oakleaf hydrangea in the front garden.

For weeks, I’m under the spell of daffodils, tulips, Virginia bluebells, snowdrops and other spring bulbs. But as these wane, perennials come to the fore, including columbines (Aquilegia), creeping phlox (P. subulata), woodland phlox (P. divaricata), soapwort (Saponaria) and lungwort (Pulmonaria).

I think the ornamental onion (A. giganteum) escapes my notice until it blooms because the foliage is camouflaged by the oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia). These bulbs came from a friend and, of course, I always think of her when the alliums bloom.

Alliums are among the trendy plants right now, primarily because many of them bloom in mid summer, when there’s a little bit of a lull in the garden. Ornamental onion is planted in fall along with other spring blooming bulbs. Last fall, I planted 100 summer-blooming allium (A. carinatum pulchellum and A. sphaerochephalon) in large clusters in several garden beds.

In late May and June, you might be able to find nursery-grown pots of ‘Millenium’ or ‘Blue Eddy’ (A. senescens) at area garden centers.

Nodding onion (A. cernuum) is a native, ornamental plant that blooms in summer. However, unless you see this at a native plant sale, you’ll have or order and plant seeds for this allium.

Ornamental onion is in the same family as edibles – onion, chives, shallots and garlic. My biggest concern is being careful not to pull them out, thinking they are chives escaped from the herb bed or the invasive weedy, wild garlic.

Seed library

The Glendale Branch of Indianapolis Public Library has IndyPL Seed Library, where you can check out seeds March through October.

Supported by Marion County Master Gardeners, Purdue Extension-Marion County, Fall Creek Gardens, Indy Urban Acres and others, most of the seeds are open pollinated, which means they are pollinated by wind, humans, birds or insects or other natural processes, making them genetically diverse. Many of the seeds also are heirloom.

Patrons can check out five packets per visit, or a total of 15 per season, to plant in their home gardens. You can harvest the seeds to return to the library or save them for your own garden next year.

The library also will conduct classes on sowing and saving seeds, gardening, water conservation and other topics.

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