Does your garden take itself too seriously? The answer to a garden that needs a little playfulness could very well be to grow some onions. Not, of course, the sort of onions that you eat (though that’s not a terrible idea, either). What I’m talking about is ornamental onion plants, Allium.
"Allium" refers to the entire onion genus, which is one of the largest plant genera. It includes onions, chives, garlic, shallots, and leeks. When gardeners talk about growing Allium bulbs or flowers, though, it is usually the ornamental sort that they are referring to. These drought-resistant bulbs bloom, usually in early summer, with fun, colorful round inflorescences that look almost like balloons or something out of a children’s book (these inflorescences are actually "umbels," meaning that the flower stalks are all of the same length and stem from a single point). These whimsical blooms are sure to get curious
comments from the neighbors. They also last wonderfully in both fresh and dried arrangements, so they’re great for adding an unusual touch indoors, too. The classic ball-shaped Allium blooms range from the smaller ‘Purple Sensation,’ which carries flowerheads of around three inches, to the huge, 9-inch balls of the Giant Allium. For something even more eye-catching, try the "Tumbleweed Onion," Allium schubertii. Its flowerheads grow to as big as 18 inches with pink flowers at all lengths along the flower stalks, creating an effect not unlike a floral firework.