Response to Allium (TOW) #2
Thu, 06 Mar 2003 20:12:03 PST
Hi everyone,

Please note that I get my PBS messages in "digest mode" (once a day digest) 
therefore there might be some delay in answering, but I will try to answer 
any and all questions about Alliums.

1.  Alberto, you embarrass me <blushing and ears burning here>.  Actually, 
when you first mentioned an "Allium King", I didn't know to whom your 
referred.  Due to my long established interest in the genus Allium, people 
started calling me "the onion man", so rather than fight it, I adopted the 
name instead.  But there are certainly those individuals who know allium far 
better than I, on a truely informed scientific taxonomic level, and I 
seriously doubt whether I'm experienced enough to be coronated as king 
onion... but I appreciate you're sentiment nonetheless.

I failed to mention, when discussing our mutual friend Thad Howard in Texas, 
that he is able to grow quite a number of Alliums that endure or actually 
want heat, and do poorly for me. Certainly, the "tender-ish" Mediterranean 
species such as neapolitanum, roseum, subhirsutum, and trifoliatum do better 
where winters are mild (I can't grow any of these reliably outdoors).  
Interestingly enough, the southwestern Texas species such as A. eulae, 
texanum, fraseri, zenobiae, etc., along with at least one Mexican species, A. 
mannii, are perfectly hardy here in New England!  Sadly, the enticing Allium 
coryi (the only yellow-flowered American species) and the dazzling A. 
drummondii (with a color range from maroon red through all shades of rose, 
pink, and cream), only survived two years here... maybe it's a question of 
finding just the right spot.

Please note that it's been 10 years since I suspended my short 1-1/2 year 
foray into a quarterly newsletter (called G.A.R.L.I.C.).  Having children 
certainly put a quick end to that (but it was worth it of course)!  I 
actually don't have back issues available, but hope to make whatever 
pertinent information from that series of publications, along with new info, 
available on my web site.

2.  Jim Shields, you say there's too many of 'em, and you don't know where to 
start.  The Yunnan species, and many of the other finicky yet desirable 
Chinese rhizomatous species are likely to prove difficult in your climate.  
They detest too much heat, and I have the same problem you do with them in 
our hot and humid New England summers.  However, there are many that should 
be fine in your climate... you'll just need to experiment a little bit.  

I should think that many of the Turkish onions will do well for you, as they 
do for me... they withstand heat, yet love (and require) the winter cold.  
Try Allium flavum, particularly ssp. tauricum in it's many color forms, also 
A. sibthorpianum and A. paniculatum.  

Alliums hail from a great many regions and habitats, from swamps to deserts, 
so there's something for everyone. Also, check out Dilys Davies book on 
Ornamental Onions, as it's a sound place to start when looking for the better 
species.  Also, look at what I posted thus far on the PBS wiki allium pages, 
and as well, those species posted on my own web page.  I try and feature only 
the better and most ornamental species, and will certainly warn of the few 
bad apples to watch out for.

3.  Lauw de Jager provided a generalization for allium groupings.  While 
useful, I think more groups are needed, because the generalizations put forth 
might be a tad oversimplified.  Example:  the Mediterranean species are 
actually of several different types (represented by genus subsections), and 
their behavior can be quite different.  Those that are in the Molium section, 
such as the lovely A. zebdanense (photos forthcoming) are dormant immediately 
after the spring bloom and don't emerge until next spring.  It's one of the 
very best and one of my favorites. All of these types have a very short 
growth period.  

Many Mediterranean species however, such as A. flavum and A. parciflorum,  
have a much different growth cycle... they only go dormant for a brief period 
in summer, then resprout in late summer or autumn, the foliage remaining 
evergreen through the winter until next summer's flowering.  Those species 
that respout in late summer of autumn, such as flavum, parciflorum, cupanii, 
sibthorpianum, and callimischon, et al, are very hardy and amazingly are able 
to keep their foliage evergreen even through a New England winter.  I have 
only experienced a few hardiness problems with Allium, and almost all are 
within the section Molium (e.g. A. neapolitanum, roseum, subhirsutum and 
subvillosum, chamaemoly, trifoliatum).

By the way, I do believe the citation for Allium cowanii to be incorrect and 
backwards from it's actual taxonomic standing.  It should be Allium 
neapolitanum (syn. A. cowanii), a long since famous (or should I say 
infamous) naming blunder that happened in the 1800's. Allium "cowanii" is 
established as a misnomer for but a form of Allium neapolitanum, yet it's 
amazing just how prevalent the name "cowanii" is in all of the dutch bulb 
offerings, nursery lists, and garden centers.

Happy onioning,

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
>> web site under construction - <<
     alliums, bulbs, penstemons, hardy hibiscus, western 
            american alpines, iris, plants of all types!

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