Responses to Allium (TOW)
Wed, 05 Mar 2003 20:46:02 PST
Hello PBS'rs,

I come home tonight to see some messages regarding Allium, the topic of the 
week. Sorry about not pursuing the discussion more actively, but I've been on 
a big deadline at work, which fortunately concluded today.  The following is 
a response to the miscellany of messages previously posted.

1.  Mary Sue mentioned allium longevity (or should it be brevity). Alberto 
addressed the same issue.  Alberto Castillo and I have a mutual friend in 
Thad Howard in Texas (southwestern USA), who is an undeniable bulb expert, 
but also a devoted student of the genus Allium as it occurs in the American 
southwest and Mexico, along with his being famous for his studies on 
Zephyranthes, Hymenocallis, Habranthes, Nothoscordum, and other bulbous 
genera.  What seems clear to me, is that many Allium species from Europe and 
Asia do not tolerate excessively warm or moderate climes, and require long 
cold winters for proper rest and dormancy.  He could not grow any of the easy 
Asian "cricket ball" alliums that we take for granted in northeastern USA, 
namely species like A. karataviense, giganteum, hollandicum (aflatunense of 

2.  Allium hyalinum - I've grown several forms of this.  In New England where 
I live, it appears marginally hardy at best, and rarely lives more than 2 
years.  In the Seattle Washington area (Pacific northwestern USA) where I 
once lived, it was easy and lovely, particularly in a partly shaded site, 
perhaps under the cover of a large evergreen.  It is closely allied to Allium 
praecox (which I haven't grown), which makes sense given that Allium praecox 
was once considered a variety of A. hyalinum.  I wish I could claim success 
growing this delicate beauty.

3.  Allium sanbornii and A. jepsonii.  Four years ago I purchased bulbs of 
both, plus some subspecies of Allium sanbornii, from Jim Robinett.  They are 
still with me and seem hardy despite their habitat at low to moderate 
altitudes in California.  These are odd rather than beautiful onions.  Both 
have a single, long, whip-like leaf (firm and round in cross-section like a 
rat's tail), with a flower bud that emerges through a tiny hole or incision 
in the base of the terete leaf... odd!  The flowers of these two species is 
very different, but they have the same growth and leaf characteristic.  The 
flowers of A. jepsonii are white, flared campanulate, and with red veins, 
looking like a normal Allium.  The flowers of A. sanbornii are tightly closed 
and constricted at the tips, yet looking "feathery" on account of long 
appendages on the tepals.  Both flower very late, in July and August, and 
seem tempermental in terms of moisture (too much = not good).

4.  Allium tuberosum was mentioned.  Yes it's lovely, and it flowers late 
(late August through September), but it's an aggressive THUG.  The fleshy 
rhizomes are deeply seated and tenacious, whereas the growth above the 
multi-pronged rhizome is fleshy and tender... pulling on plants or seedlings 
results in the plant ripping off, leaving the fiercely resistent roots to 
resprout.  The plant is apomictic, and produces seed without cross 
pollination. The seed is produced exceedingly quickly, with pods opening and 
showing seed while there are still fresh flowers in the inflorescences. I 
cannot recommend growing this pretty thug.

5.  Paige Woodward refers to recent taxonomic treatments.  There are many 
recent taxonomic treatments in the Allium arena, and for the most part, most 
seem reasonable and well placed, unlike some of the other nonsense and 
upheaval that's happening in the taxonomic front in general these days.  The 
couple of papers, that I think Paige refers to, are generalized summaries of 
more detailed publications by the same authors just a year or two previous.  
They do indeed present new territory, but they appear well founded.

6.  Arnold, I couldn't agree with you more.  I love New England winters, 
because it gives me a complete break from gardening.  It lets me concentrate 
on other activities, albeit largely plant related, but it's a respite from 
the demand of gardening and mowing the lawn after the thick of it in summer 

More to follow,

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!

More information about the pbs mailing list