Today’s entry features another wonderful alpine plant with description by Brent Hine, Curator, E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. Photo taken by Randy Mindell.
Alliums make for fascinating botanical study. There are many hundreds of species spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They can be happy on frigid mountaintops or in blazing deserts. There is even a swamp onion, Allium validum. With most of our countrysides seemingly overflowing with onions, it shouldn’t be hard to find one and get better acquainted.
Allium woronowii is loosely classified as a “domed” allium, fairly obvious from its appearance. This group includes some of the most beautiful plants of the entire onion nation*. This species is at home in the meager mountain soils of eastern Turkey and Armenia, where climate is decidedly continental and wild onion species proliferate. The species has adapted well to the very seasonal environment—dormant bulbs respond to sudden Spring heat, forcing growth and flowering within short weeks after snowmelt. In the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden, the benign Spring extends their bloom, which begins in late April. If bulbs are planted in comparatively warm, stony (eg. alpine garden) soils, growth will begin even earlier. Plants will also last longer if soil is allowed to dry out after they enter dormancy. Knowledgeable gardeners know that most ornamental bulbs like a good baking. Warm dry conditions allow them to fully ripen carbohydrate energy for next year’s effort. Oh, and it’s so worth it to get on your knees and sniff the flower umbel—an exquisite carnation scent is your reward.
My planned early summer hiking includes searching for rare BC native Allium crenulatum. If you live on the northern half of the planet, see if there isn’t an interesting species native to your area. And if you think I’m an allium convert, check out Mark McDonough’s Plant Buzz website,with it’s images of species and selections related to Allium woronowii in the Big “melanocrommyum” Allium gallery.
*Alliums: The Ornamental Onions. Dilys Davies. B.T. Batsford, London, 1992. Alliums in History, pp. 12-19.
New subgenera, sections and species of Allium, P. Wendelbo, Bot. Notiser 122 (1969), pp. 25-37.