How to get Chelsea in your garden

Alliums are often seen at Chelsea

Alliums are often seen at Chelsea - Credit: sub

The experts at Monkton Elm Garden Centre show you how to get a bit of prestige in your garden this spring.

Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of the gardening year – for more than 100 years it has been inspiring gardeners worldwide.

The extensive television coverage it now attracts means that everyone can enjoy a little piece of loveliness. The many glorious show gardens are always outstanding and a common thread amongst them is often the allium bulb.

This jewel in the gardening crown is seen regularly and prominently at the event as May is its natural flowering time.

The many forms can be used in such different ways – adding a cottage garden feel when mixed with other plants, or lending their architecturally-strong lines to minimalist, contemporary schemes. Perfectly round flower heads in many sizes and shades of purples and pinks can be seen as waves through a border; as an accent point in standalone clumps or as a link between herbaceous perennials.

Alliums originate mainly from Asia and are, of course, part of the onion family. In fact, ‘allium’ is the Latin word for garlic.

They are deservedly popular with the home gardener as they are long lasting, versatile – their vertical shape taking up little ground space, and can be left in the soil for many years without fuss.

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Their strong stems rarely need staking either. Alliums are an important food source for bees and hoverflies, so vital these days. They also look amazing in pots, their seed heads being attractive for months after flowering.

These seed heads can also be dried for indoor display, even sprayed silver and gold for Christmas arrangements.

Allium bulbs are most successful when planted in the autumn, plant deeply around three to four times the bulbs height, adding a little grit under each bulb if your ground is heavy. Their foliage begins to fade as they come into flower, so use in amongst some leafy perennials to mask this.


Our personal favourites are:

Allium purple sensation: it has the best colour of all, packed heads of purple-violet standing nearly a metre high coming into flower during May. It is reasonably priced so use in drifts through the border.

Flowering slightly later - allium giganteum globemaster: it is even taller, reaching up to 1.2m so suits the back of a border.

Allium Christophii: is long lasting, with large heads on shorter 30-40cm stems.

Allium Schubertii: looks like a sputnik or exploding pink firework, with an enormous flower head, easily 30cm across on a short stem.