PLANT OF THE WEEK #1: Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum

I’m into maximum seasonal change in my garden.  One of the hardest times to achieve that, given that I can’t water the garden at all, is mid to late summer.  Nearly everything is in a drought-induced malaise, and there’s virtually nothing from the drought-ridden climates from which I choose my plants for this garden that chooses to flower now.  So there’s no new arrivals from mid January to late Feb, and I hate that.

Enter Allium carinatum subsp. pulchellum.  Right when my frustration is building to breaking point, and I’m ready to install a whole new system of tanks that will allow summer watering (a friend nearby has 700,000l of storage!!!), this Allium makes its entrance.

In fact, it has been evident in foliage for months.  By this time of year, and without supplementary watering, the foliage has withered, and all that tends to be left is a flower stem to about 50cm, topped with an outrageously extravagant green sheath surrounding its developing flower buds.  The sheath eventually splits open and folds back, revealing a upright cluster of roundish purple buds on very slender pedicels.  These quickly fall outwards in a floral impression of a fireworks-explosion.  One flower-head isn’t impressive, but it quickly bulks up, both by vegetative clumping and by self-sowing, to the point that plants in their vicinity look like they’re surrounded by a floral fog.

There’s a white form as well, but as it seems to me that it’s only the quite strong colour that provides any visibility to this very finely-built plant, I’m not sure why you’d bother.  I must visit some local gardens that have it in situ (rather than in a nursery pot) and see.

This allium self-sows with abandon, and there may come a day when I have too many of them.  Meanwhile I have lots, and look forward to having a lot more.


  1. Bulbs are the next frontier for me. At my prior home, they would randomly arrive and remind me of my grandmother. At my new home, they pop up to annoying remind me of the prior owners…. This blog post has got me thinking. Cheers

    1. Yes, I have a heap of really rubbishy jonquils (can’t believe I’m saying that – is that sacrilege?) from previous owners that pop and and annoy me. Some are on the edge of the canopy of my oak, and I’ve mowed them for 17 years. They’ve never flowered, but they still pop up every year

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