Deer discovered my garden a few years ago, so I’ve been growing more plants from their do-not-eat list. It turns out that deer, voles, chipmunks, and rabbits find alliums— plants in the onion family— distasteful. That’s great news because alliums offer a broad palette of colors, heights, bloom times, and flower forms. They are easy to grow and make excellent cut flowers for fresh or dried bouquets. They don’t take up lots of space, either, which is a bonus in my already-crowded gardens.
The tallest and most architectural alliums have big, globe-shaped flowerheads on 3- to 4-foot stems. A group of deep-purple Globemaster or Gladiator alliums is a real eye-catcher, especially when planted with white or pink peonies, delphiniums, or tall bearded iris. The white-flowering Mount Everest is a bit shorter and looks sharp in front ofshrubs with deep-green or burgundy foliage or rising out of a groundcover of periwinkle (Vinca minor).
Drought-tolerant corkscrew allium (Allium senescens ssp. montanum var. glaucum) makes a good edging plant in the dry soil at the top of my stone retaining wall. I love the way its blue-green leaves twist like loose corkscrews. It blooms in late summer. Ozawa (Allium thunbergii ‘Ozawa’) is another late-bloomer that flowers from autumn right up until snowfall in my Vermont garden. Its pink flowers pair well with coreopsis, gaillardia, solidago and other fall flowers.
The most dramatic allium in my garden, though, is Allium schubertii. Its foot-wide umbels look like an exploding pink fireworks display. They never fail to elicit comments from garden visitors and coworkers when I bring them to work in a vase.
Most alliums are sold as dormant bulbs and others as potted plants, depending on their growth habit. Order the bulbs this spring or summer to plant in the fall. You can buy fall-planted alliums at Dutch Gardens, starting in late April. Look for the potted species, such as corkscrew alliums, in specialty nurseries.