MOST OF THE FAMILIAR PURPLE ONES ARE LONG GONE, but a few real oddball alliums are making a fashion statement here right now—and seemingly proud to be different. Meet Allium azureum (above; also called A. caeruleum) and the oddest of all, the well-named Allium ‘Hair.’
Described as cornflower blue in the catalogs and variously named, the blue ornamental onion in question stands a couple of feet tall, with flowerheads an inch and a half or 2 across. It blooms here just as spring turns to summer, and would probably be more prolific if I took it out of an area that I have to water in July and August and September, because it’s adjacent to vegetables, and let it live a little drier as it ripens.
There are other blue alliums, as this Pacific Bulb Society article describes, but this is one that’s affordable, easy to get your hands on, and hardy in Zones 4-7. A cheap thrill, really, for those seeking the sometimes-elusive color blue in the garden (you can buy it in most catalogs, including here).
Maybe your taste runs to the bizarre instead? Allium ‘Hair’ is at your service. This mutation of the drumstick allium, A. sphaerocephalon, is somewhere between undersea and outer space in appearance (above). Maybe it should be called ‘The Hairy Eyeball’?
It reaches 2 feet or just below that, and is hardy in Zones 4-8, with threadlike tissue emanating from a purple center that looks like a cluster of beads. Now just where this one fits into a garden design I do not know, but curiosity-wise, it’s a winner; no contest.
Sources for oddball alliums:
My first year with Allium ‘hair’ and I love this freaky looking petite flower.
Welcome, RuralChick. Freaky is the word, definitely. I feel as if I almost never looks closely at it before yesterday, strange to say. Glad to “meet” and hope to hear from you again soon.
I’ve got a good number of Blue ball late spring-blooming allium. Allium Hair looks more like a younger version of Animal, virtuoso drummer from the Muppets.
We posted about alliums too!
I laughed out loud about the “Hairy Eyeball”. As a nurse, we do procedures in our procedure room (think mini operating room). So, with our masks on, one of the other nurses refers to one of our Docs giving us the “hairy eyeball” when perhaps we don’t anticipate as quickly as he would like (i.e. read his mind). :)
I may be planting one of these in HER honor. ;)
The hairy allium might be good hawk decoy plant if you have some of those crazy Polish chickens. Or a cut flower in an Edward Gorey bouquet perhaps.
I am also reminded of Animal when I look at Allium Hair:
I was amazed to see you publish this post on the same day of my allium search online to find out what this particular plant is that my mother’s friend gave me. (I also moved it to my house before I read your post on “moving bulbs”). I am mystified by the identity of this plant, and all my mother’s friend could tell me was that it is from the allium family.
I would post the picture to this comment, but haven’t figured out a way to do that. It’s basically a completely green (at this stage, anyway) wand shaped flower with a 3-4 inch long/ 1-inch wide cylindrical cluster of glossy pea-like berries on the top of a simple long straight stalk. Would you or anyone else know what this is?
Welcome, Julie. I don’t have photo-upload capability enabled with comments, so not your fault. :) I think you are describing the drumstick allium, A. sphaerocephalon, like this? If you search for drumstick Allium online you will see many photos. Maybe that’s your variety. Let me know!
Thanks, Margaret for your reply! Drumstick allium is definitely a possibility, though it’s hard to tell since most of the photos online show the drumstick allium in its fully blossomed–purple and fluffy–state. I’d love to know if it indeed begins as this truly strange-looking number–it bears little resemblance to an allium at this point because its “buds” are tight, glossy and berry-like, not fuzzy or delicate in the least. Also, the one I have is much more oblong–like the top of a cattail. Anyway, we will find out eventually what this is. I truly enjoy reading your blog, and may have in fact caught the gardening bug from it and you.
That Animal analogy is dead on….and since I’m a big fan of Animal and all his muppet buddies, I may just have to add this plant to my garden in their honor!!
And Margaret, I’m one of those who’s always seeking out true blues for the garden…so the azureum will probably be popping up at my place as well.
Thanks for the new ideas!
I have always loved alliums, but I love them more and more the stranger they get. That hairy allium is great: it reminds me of clematis once it’s done blooming, all those little mopheads. My favorite freakshow of an allium in our garden right now is Allium schubertii, and the leek we’ve left over winter and now into summer and it’s 6 feet tall and blooming. Talk about punctuation in the garden. Bam!
Beware the Allium ‘Hair”! It is very cute but it seeds around like crazy. So if you want it be sure to deadhead it.
So glad to see the hair allium get some recognition! I found it already in the garden when I bought my home in upstate NY. I just let it grow in odd groups throughout the garden. My friends are amused by it and I almost consider it an odd type of garden pet- thoroughly amusing with a wacky charm – I call them “my hairy girls” :)
Welcome, Ann. Hasn’t seeded here in many years that I can tell, but it’s in an area that gets cultivation (in a cutting row next to vegetables) so probably I am uprooting all the babies. :)
Welcome, Tina. It is pet-like, isn’t it? Glad you like it; interesting that it was already in your garden when you arrived!
See you both soon again, I hope.
My allium just got lost in the midst of other plantings. Hespris
was supposed to be with purple ones and the white ones also
were just too short to be seen. When should they be moved?
Found it! I must have misunderstood my mother’s friend when I thought she said “allium family”–the strange-looking plant is the cuckoo pint arum italicum. They are both bulbous plants, at any rate. Here is a picture of what I have:
Apparently, they can be invasive.
I feel much better knowing what it is. Thought you might want to know too.