Correction re: Allium tanguticum (sic) "Summer Skies"
Thu, 13 Mar 2003 19:03:47 PST
In a recent PBS posting, I recalled a story of careless, perhaps even willful 
misrepresentation of a couple hybrid Alliums by the infamous Blackthorne 
Gardens nursery, a business that became defunct decades ago.  It seems I got 
a couple facts wrong in my recounting of the story.  The errors were brought 
to my attention by the wholesale grower in Oregon referenced in the story.  
I'm grateful that he contacted me and brought the issue to my attention, I 
apologize for any distress this may have caused him, and I'm happy to set the 
record straight.  

1.  The second of the two hybrids mentioned in my message; Allium tanguticum 
(sic) "Summer Skies", also originated from Blackthorne garden as did the 
first cultivar mentioned; A. tanguticum (sic) "Blue Skies".  The Oregon 
grower DID NOT hybridize and name "Summer Skies".  I think I was very clear 
however, in my first message, that the grower tried to set the nomenclature 
straight in his dealings with the mail order nursery, but the nursery chose 
to ignore the correction and to continue selling under the wrong name.

2.  The second of the two hybrids, is actually named "Summer Beauty", not 
"Summer Skies" as I erroneously recollected.  Had there not been a foot of 
rock hard frozen snow outside, I could've run out into the yard and checked 
labels rather than depend on memory.

The Oregon grower goes on to say:
"Whether or not Blue Skies is "an insipid and inferior form of 
Allium senescens" is a matter of personal opinion.  Maybe using "blue" 
in the name is misleading, but then I didn't name it.  True, it isn't 
blue, but I find it to be a decent landscape plant.  "

True enough the foliage clumps produced by Allium senescens ssp. montanum 
'Blue Skies' and 'Summer Beauty' are indeed attractive with neat, shiny green 
strap leaves
.  But then again, that's a feature of the species and almost all forms of 
the species have such handsome foliage, and are thus useful as landscape 
plants.  But many forms of Allium senescens ssp. montanum have bright, rich 
pink or rose flowers, in larger heads and on shorter stockier stems, and are 
far superior to Blue Skies' and 'Summer Beauty'.  Thus is remains my personal 
opinion that the flowers, on 'Blue Skies' particularly, are a dull, washed 
out, insipid pale pinkish-lilac.  

Recapping a few facts:
a) Allium senescens ssp. montanum is no longer the valid name for the 
European representation of senescens based on a recent taxonomic revision... 
the early name Allium lusitanicum has been reinstated as the correct name.

b)  Allium tanguticum is a slim bulbous species with red-purple flowers, and 
is not in cultivation to the best of my knowledge.

c)  'Blue Skies' and 'Summer Beauty' are poor forms of Allium lusitanicum, 
not tanguticum as so often labeled.

d)  Neither 'Blue Skies' and 'Summer Beauty' is anything close to being blue 
flowered, but the do make nice foliage clumps.

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
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