Two Allium of the season

Jim McKenney
Fri, 01 Jun 2007 13:41:08 PDT
Two years ago while canvassing a small nursery I came across several Allium
for sale and purchased them. Two of these are in full bloom right now. One,
Allium maximowiczii, is very decorative: it forms tight clumps of foliage
somewhat in the style of a short version of chives. The foliage is nearly
hidden now by the very numerous flowers. These are whitish – they look very
white until you see them next to something really white. The scapes are only
about six inches or so high, the umbels are about ¾ inch in diameter. From a
distance they remind me of the clover inflorescences now spangling the lawn.
I bought this as Allium maximowiczii album, but learned on the wiki that it
is A. maximowiczii ssp. shibutsiense ‘Alba’.

Now that I’ve written that name, a question arises. Shouldn’t it be ‘Album’,
to agree in gender with Allium? The answer is perhaps not as obvious as it
seems. If ‘Alba’ is a cultivar name, I don’t think it has to agree in
gender. If it is part of a name subject to the international rules, it does.
But which is it?

Or maybe it does not matter. An IPNI search on the name shibutsiense turned
up nothing in Allium; but IPNI does list an Allium maximowiczii f.
leucanthum which might be my plant: the publication where the name was
published seems to describe alpine flora of Japan.   

This post is really about the other one: Allium obliquum. I bought this
because the tag said it had yellow flowers. When I got home, I checked
Google images and was disappointed by what I found. So the plant sat around
in its pot and didn’t get potted that year. I eventually relented, and I’m
glad I did. It’s blooming now, and the flowers are, as expected, not a good
yellow. They are a sort of chartreuse, in walnut-sized umbels. 

To my tastes the great thing about this plant is that it is a sort of
miniature hard-neck garlic, a miniature ophioscorodon (I love that name).
The developing scapes go through  the same  twisting, arching, coiling phase
seen in the hard-necks. They have topped out at thirty-four inches. This is
very decorative!

Curious, I bit into a leaf today: lots of garlic taste there. I don’t have
enough bulbs to eat them - yet. 

To think that I almost tossed this plant: you really have to see things for
yourself. Suddenly this mini-rocambole is one of my favorite Allium. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the garden is full of
dead and dying bulb foliage - and, I hope, fat and happy dormant bulbs. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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