Allium hybrid trends #2 
(...and now, for something completely different)

After growing thousands of allium plants, with particular interest in hybrids, a quantifiable range of
characteristics has emerged.  One can think of these identifiable traits as "lines", and new seedlings
seem to fall within these lines.  It is rare therefore, for something completely new to appear that
breaks tradition and starts a new line. The year 2007 is such a year.

When I look at my garden in July, August, and September, it is a sea of pom-pom allium
blooms, thousands of globes in various sizes, colors, density, and aspect.  The nectar feeding
activity on a hot day in August is beyond belief, with a fantastic number of bees, butterflies,
moths, and huge nectar-feeding wasps, all in a drunken nectar frenzy.  But back to the spherical 
pom-poms that define such species as Allium nutans, senescens, and their infinite hybrid 
progeny, they have remained within one or more of the "lines" for a couple of decades.  Sure there's
great variability and lots to select from within those lines, but still they remain within their realm.


A self-sown seedling growing in a garden path, escaped my weeding efforts to keep the paths clear.
**(some of my best seedlings have come from such negligence)**
On August 18, 2007, I noticed a unique allium bloom head, partially concealed by the
encroaching summer bloom of Coreopsis virticillata 'Moonbeam'.  I could barely believe my
eyes when I saw it, an impressive oversized hemisphere 4" across, looking like one of the 
spring-blooming large-headed Alliums such as A. cristophii or schubertii, shrunk down to a more
reasonable size (yet still large) and plunked down on top of a 9" stem above twisting fans of
curly gray foliage matching that of A. senescens glaucum.


The two flower heads at the lower left represent a couple typical senescens/nutans progeny, and the head
on the bottom center is an extra large robust form of Allium nutans.  It has the largest ball-shaped head of any 
within the rhizomatous alliums that I know about or have in the garden, measuring in at 2-1/2" across.  In the new
seedling, the head measured in at 3-5/8" when first open, and 4" across a few days later when at mature
anthesis. The individual flowers are large (for an allium in this line).  I believe this new seedling holds great 
promise for future hybridization and selection. 



Close-up of the inflorescence with the first florets beginning to open.

Close-up of the
inflorescence one week later, with more florets open and more buds yet to open.




The plant in full flower one week later. For me, photographs fail to fully capture its essence.
Maybe my eyes are so tuned in to dense drumstick globes, that I'm incredulous to see such
a wonderful large open head of bloom on such a small plant.  It may very well get taller in 
subsequent years, but even so, I'm thrilled by this new line. 



Photos by Mark McDonough

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This page was last updated on 08/31/07