Friday, July 23, 2010

The pleasure of our gardens, part 9

Over the past several months, I've blogged regularly about our many colorful rose bushes in our backyard garden.  However, I haven't waxed much about what's happening in our front yard garden. With summer nearing its midpoint, I thought it's time to introduce you to one of our front-of-the-house perennials that's not only added a welcome splash to a small garden bed, but also has become a nice companion to our Japanese maple tree.

Starting as delicate, airy globes ...
Say hello to our allium flowers.  Perhaps, you've seen an allium before.  After all, they're native to most countries in the northern hemisphere and can also be found in Brazil and Africa.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the allium as "any of numerous, usually bulbous plants of the genus Allium in the lily family, having long stalks bearing clusters of various colored flowers."  And, according to the website, allium flowers typically grow to a height of about 48 inches tall and spread to about a foot.  So, they're quite easy to pick out of a crowd of garden flowers.

A few years ago, our next-door neighbor gave us a couple of their "extra" alliums in exchange for a couple of our "extra" iris bulbs, which we happened to be splitting and replanting at the time.  After planting our alliums in a small, mixed-use garden spot near our front door, we didn't really know what to expect ~ and I seem to recall nothing really happened for a long time. Just a lot of green leaves at the base of the stem taking up space and harboring a few pesky snails.

A couple of summers ago, several of our alliums opened up quite nicely ~ without any prompting ~ and became welcome acquaintances in our front yard garden.  They share space with a Japanese maple tree and a few calla lilies.  One thing I enjoy about our alliums is they are very low maintenance and thrive on the afternoon sunshine facing north.

... blooming into star-like flowers.
The allium's maturing process is as intriguing as it is interesting to observe.  First, the main bulb sprouts up at the end of a long, light green stem;  then, it splits open like a pea pod, producing a cluster of small pods.  Finally, these pods open up into individual flowers.

While all of our allium blooms are blueish purple, alliums also bloom in white ~ even red.  During evening walks through our neighborhood, I've begun noticing many gardens sprouting alliums.  I've also observed alliums growing in median strip gardens while driving around Oakland.  A popular flower or a just a populist?

Alliums are everywhere you want them to be ~ and some places you don't expect them to be.

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