Chives, the common culinary herb, is Allium schoenoprasum. The species has the widest distribution of any Allium species, and is the only one to be found both in the European and Asian continents as well as in North America. But few people realize how wildly variable this species is. So this page will be dedicated to the many faces of chives, A. schoenoprasum, and its closely related allies.
Allium altyncolicum 'Blue Spear' - This species was named just a couple years ago. For years I was puzzled by this very chive-like plant that had very un-chive-like growth habit, with striking bluish foliage that stands stiffly erect. The flowers appear later than A. schoenoprasum, and the florets are individually larger, and with longer filaments. Without knowing of this newly named species, it seemed like an entity somewhere between A. schoenoprasum and A. ledebourianum?. I had dubbed it 'Blue Spear' alluding to the foliage form. I'm glad to at long last to have a name on this Siberian species. The flowers are light mauve. The last two photos show the plant in flower. The flower heads are very large and showy, appearing well after regular chives or Allium schoenoprasum is done flowering. Photos by Mark McDonough.
Allium maximowiczii ssp. shibutsiense 'Alba' - I obtained this from a Japanese source listed as Allium maximowiczii alba , but it's not just a white form of the much taller type species, it's the alpine form of Allium maximowiczii. The type species is found from central Asia, to China, Korea, and Japan. Allied to chives, the flowers are rather different, being shorter, more cupped-shaped, and becoming papery when going over. Dense tufts of grayish foliage, and masses of little white flowers, about 6" (15 cm) tall. Photos by Mark McDonough.
Allium schoenoprasum is the species known as chives. The range of chive forms provides a constant source of interest for this single species! In the first photo we see a semi-dwarf form, growing 10-12" (25-30 cm) tall, with informal jostled heads of lilac-purple. In the second there is a garden view showing an array of color forms from white, through shades of pink and mauve. Photos 1-2 by Mark McDonough. Photos 3-6 by David Pilling show a single flower which despite being small has the same form as all alliums, seed heads with seeds on a 10 mm grid, shoots appearing in March and buds in the middle of May.
Photo of a mountain growing form from the Altai Region in Central Asia by Andrey Dedov.
'Curly Mauve' is a hybrid that I named, being one of the better "curly types" and a fascinating plant on many accounts. Many forms of chives actually have prostrate foliage; this one starts out prostrate, later becoming a misty blue-gray dance of medusa whips curling in all directions. In June the stems stand erect above the short curled foliage to open a sea of grayed-lavender chive florets. The five photos below show a growth progression. Photos by Mark McDonough.
"Curly Mauve seedling" - Here we see a spontaneous garden seedling that caught my eye in early spring because of the octopus-like rosette, the blue-gray curled tentacles swirling around flat on the ground. Photo by Mark McDonough.
'Marsha' is a very deep purple form of chives, named for my friend Marsha Russell who had the deep form appear in her garden. I've had similar deep-color forms appear in the garden. Seed grown plants will vary, but a good percentage will yield similar purple forms. Grows 2'(60 cm) tall. Photo by Mark McDonough.
'Snowcap' (with American species Spiraea densiflora) - Lots of plants go around as Allium scoenoprasum 'Alba', but it's rather ridiculous given that numerous forms of chives, from robust 2' (60 cm) tall plants to little 6" (15 cm) dwarf forms, might have white flowers. It's better to give these various white forms cultivar names. This seedling that I selected and named was derived from another dwarf white cultivar (that I also named) called 'Corsican White', the latter a miniature white-flowered form from Corsica. The selection named 'Snowcap' is a semi-dwarf, growing 12"-15" (30-38 cm) tall, with pristine white flowers. Photos by Mark McDonough.
"Dwarf pinkish-mauve form from Corsica" - I received seed years ago of chives wild collected in Corsica. This was a very dwarf form, growing only 6-8" (15-20 cm) tall, with much sparser, very narrow foliage, slender stems and adorable little clusters of bloom in many colors. Subsequent seedling progeny has led to some very good selected forms. The photo is not very good, being a scan from a slide, showing a plant in the rock garden when I lived near Seattle, Washington. Photo by Mark McDonough.
Allium index - Allium flavum Relatives - American alliums A-B - American alliums C - American alliums D-F - American alliums G-H - American alliums I-M - American alliums N-R - American alliums S-Z - Big Ball alliums - Blue alliums - Domed alliums - Drumstick alliums - Miscellaneous alliums A-E - Miscellaneous alliums F-M - Miscellaneous alliums N-R - Miscellaneous alliums S-Z - Rhizomatous alliums