'Millenium' Allium in full bloom. Photos Leslie Halleck

In The Garden: Garlic Isn’t Just For Eating

They aren't just for dinner.

It’s about that time in Texas gardens—when an unexpected group of plants start strutting their stuff: Alliums. For those not in the know, Allium, Greek for “garlic”, is a genus that includes onion, garlic, chives, leeks and scallions.

'Millenium' Alliums are one of the very best new introductions available now.
‘Millenium’ Alliums are one of the very best new introductions available now.

What many Texas gardeners may not know is that this group of plants isn’t only valued for being a culinary powerhouse, but also as beautiful ornamentals. Garlic you say? In the ornamental garden? Absolutely. Here in Dallas we’re always looking for plants that are both tough and beautiful. Alliums deliver on both orders. On top of being heat tolerant and waterwise, there aren’t many pests that have the gumption to munch on these potent perennials.

While there are many variations between species and cultivars, Alliums generally form a clump of strap-like leaves. Foliage resembles that of Liriope, but with brighter green or blue-cast color. Come summer, plants push out a multitude of “drumstick” blooms; sturdy stems topped with white, pink, lavender or purple pom poms of flowers. There are even almost-red colored options. There are certain types that are more common, such as society garlic, sold in nursery pots throughout the year; or ‘Purple Sensation’, sold as a bulb in the fall. Even the garlic chives sold as an herb put on a lovely display of blooms in summer. Just when other plants may be taking a break from blooming in the heat, Alliums come to the rescue.

The most impressive of new Allium selections I’ve recently spotted is called ‘Millenium’. The dense, bright green foliage is topped with tons of uniform bright lavender-purple globes. Stunning when paired with hardy hibiscus, lantana, veronica, and salvia. Absolutely gorgeous.

While you won’t be harvesting bulbs off of many of these more garden-friendly types, the foliage can still be used in the kitchen just like you’d use standard green chives or onions.

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