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Allium Sphaerocephalon

September 4th, 2019

Three years ago I purchased a small pack of bulbs on clearance at a local discount store. I think paid .75 for 25 bulbs. They weren’t labeled with a name, so I searched for them when they bloomed the following summer. Turns our they were Allium Sphaerocephalon.

These beautiful little bulbs are loved by pollinators of all sorts. They naturalize readily, expanding stocks of bulbs each season and blooming more profusely. They grow about two feel tall and the bloombs are about the size of an egg. They start off green and mature to a beautiful dark pink. They’re quite inexpensive to buy, you can get 100 for $10.75 from Van Engelen.

Yesterday, I spent some time harvesting bulbs and moving them into the new pollinator bed by the driveway (more photos of this garden coming soon). I planted them among the hyssop as they have small leaves and the blooms should rise just to the height of the hyssop. This should give me a longer bloom time in this small area, providing twice as much food for the pollinators.

Alliums are becomming a favorite flower around here. I currently grow only four or five different varieties, but hope to add more. Purple Sensation is on my list to buy this fall, I’ve heard a lot of good things about this variety (especially that it returns year after year).

What are you doing in the garden this week? Do you grow alliums? What’s your favorite variety?

Another Reason for Alliums

June 26th, 2012

As if you need another reason to grow a wide variety of alliums in the garden beside the deliciousness that they bring to your plate. I plant extra leeks and onions so I can leave some in place to produce blooms. Leeks are the best for this because they’re overwintered. I never harvest all of my leeks because otherwise I’d miss these beautiful flowers and so would the bees.


Onions are biennial so they will bloom the second year. These are leeks that I planted last summer, harvested in fall/winter/spring and left a few for the honeybees.


They’re not quite as showy, as big, or as colorful as globe alliums that you buy as flowering bulbs, but they do offer food for our tables and beauty for our gardens. I certainly appreciate plants that do double duty like this!

Do you ever leave any of your leeks or onions to bloom for beauty and for the bees?

Alternative Alliums for Your Plate

June 22nd, 2012

Many of us have small gardens and would never be able to grow all the bulb onions we use in a year. We can supplement those bulb onions with other alliums, it’s especially helpful if they can be grown during the off seasons and throughout the winter. Over the past couple years I’ve been adding a couple alternative alliums to the garden to fill our plates.

Leeks are a perfect stand-in for onions in winter and spring. After growing them once I wondered why I had never grown them before. I planted them in late summer and overwintered them in the garden. They were harvested throughout the winter and on into spring. It was the perfect way to supplement the storage onions. They are perfect for growing in fall/winter/spring and are quite tasty used like regular onions. If you’ve never grown leeks in the garden before I’d highly recommend giving them a try. Seeds are available from a variety of sources.

Potato Onions are planted in fall like garlic and are harvested around this time. If you plant a large onion they turn into lots of smaller onions, if you plant smaller ones they turn into large potato onions. You save onions from the previous year to replant in the fall. These onions are nice because you don’t have to buy seed, sets or plants after your initial purchase.  These are nice because they’re ready much earlier than the bulging onions you plant in the garden.  Shallots are very similar to potato onions, only they’re more mild.   (source: Southern Exposure)

Bunching Onions are hardy onions and are harvested and used as scallions or green onions. I planted ‘Japanese White Bunching’ a few years ago and have been letting them bunch for the past couple years. I harvest them all winter long, there’s nothing like having green onions to use in the middle of winter.  It would definitely be worth adding a small patch of hardy bunching onions to your garden. This year I added another variety called ‘Red Welsh’ and I can’t wait to try them this fall.  (source: Japanese Bunching from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Red Welsh Bunching onion from Baker Creek)

Perennial Leeks produce small bulbs and tiny leeks from the base of the main leek plant. They’re like regular leeks only smaller with a bulbous end and you don’t need to start seeds for them each year.  To propagate, you dig up the main leeks and replant the small bulbs that form around it (kind of like garlic). My initial planting of perennial leeks last year so I didn’t harvest any this spring for eating, I wanted them to multiply as much as possible. As a result, I have a nice crop of small leeks, I’ll be digging them up shortly to replant for fall/winter/spring harvests. (source: Southern Exposure)

Egyptian Walking Onions are harvested like green onions. Besides the bunching onions, they’re the earliest onions harvested each spring. They reproduce by forming little bulblets on top of the plant. The main leaf then falls over and the little bulblets produce a small bunch of onions, thus they “walk” around the garden. I started these onions a few years ago and I’ve been working on establishing a good sized patch of them since they multiply so readily and are so easy.
It’s no wonder Thomas Jefferson grew these at Monticello! (source: Southern Exposure)


It’s been really interesting researching all these different varieties of alliums and growing them in the garden. They definitely make it much easier to produce a larger percentage of the food that we eat. The thing I like most about all of these is that they produce fresh harvests during those times of the year that you’re really craving something fresh!

Do you grow any alternative alliums? Which ones? Any great advice? If not, which one do you think you’d like to try first?

The Year of the Allium Revisited

March 24th, 2012

Last year I declared it “the year of the allium” and was determined to experiment with growing more varieties of alliums to get us through the year. As a result of my efforts I was able to produce about 80% of the onions we ate. I just used up the last of my bulb onions from the pantry

I am currently harvesting leeks that were overwintered along with some winter hardy bunching onions. The Egyptian Walking Onions are just getting to the point of harvest as well. I will probably have to buy some bulb onions at the store to get me through when the leeks run out. Green onions are great, but they just can’t take the place of caramelized onions in soup or an omelette.


The last few evenings have found me out in the garden direct seeding onions, planting my onion seedlings, and wishing I had my onion sets and plants that are on order. The bed I’m planting them in was manured heavily last fall, which hopefully will amount to good sized onions this summer. With the amount of onions I’m planting this spring, this coming year may finally be the year in which I don’t have to buy an onion from the farmer’s market.


My goal has never really been to grow 100% percent of the food that we eat. I enjoy supporting local farmers and I don’t really have the space to do that here at Chiot’s Run. That being said, onions at the farmer’s market are quite expensive and I know I can save a lot more money using my planting space for onions rather than cabbage or zucchini.

Is there a certain kind of vegetable or fruit that you’re like this with? One that you choose to grow instead of something else either to save money or because you can’t find it locally?

A Little Something Different

July 27th, 2011

A month or so ago, the leeks that I had overwintered in my mom’s garden started to bloom. We thought about pulling them out to make way for something else, but left them for a while because they’re quite beautiful and beneficial.


When they opened up I cut some to put on my table. This year I’ve been trying to keep more fresh things from the garden on the dining room table to enjoy them.

I loved the leek blooms so much I might start planting any extra leeks I have in my front flowerbed just for their beautiful blooms. Of course you can’t really harvest them and use them after blooming because they get woody. I’m happy to sacrifice a few leeks and onions for some beautiful blooms.

Do you ever let any of your leeks or onions bloom?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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