Product Profile: Alliums

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01/06/2015 - 15:58

This month, we're going to take a look at alliums. Often referred to in the horticultural world as ornamental onions, you'll find a wide range of these striking flowers at New Covent Garden Flower Market.

A popular variety is Allium 'Gladiator', pictured below, with its pom-pom shaped flower head made up of 100s of tiny purple flowers. Read on to discover more about these popular summer blooms…

Purple alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Background

From the Alliaceae family, the name allium is the Latin word for garlic.

Most alliums have a distinctive spherical flower head, with some varieties being described as looking like fireworks!

They're usually available from April until July, but Allium sphaerocephalon is generally available from June through to November.

Types

BRITISH FLOWERS

Drumstick alliums

Towards the end of May and during June, drumstick alliums can usually be found at Pratley.

British purple drumstick alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Nectaroscordum

Then, you’ll also find Nectaroscordum available, with their gracefully drooping clusters of bell-shaped blooms.

British bell-shaped nectaroscordum alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

WORLD FLOWERS

Allium 'Globemaster'

One of the larger allium varieties with spectacular giant flower heads, made up of numerous star-shaped, purple flowers.

Purple Globemaster alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium 'Purple Sensation'

Globe-like blooms in a stunning deep violet hue.

Purple sensation alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium schubertii

Radiating pink flowers reminiscent of a giant sparkler! And some describe it as 'sputnik-like'.

Purple/pink Allium schubertii alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium 'Summer Drummer'

With tightly packed, pale purple and white flowers, they get their name from the flower head resembling a giant drumstick.

Purple 'Summer Drummer' alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium sphaerocephalon

Featuring bi-coloured oval flower heads, they're also known as bullet alliums.

Purple (Allium sphaerocephalon) alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium 'Forelock'

Instead of a completely spherical flower head, these burgundy blooms tipped with white, have a striking tuft on top.

Burgundy 'Forelock' alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium 'Mount Everest'

With flower heads packed with white, star-shaped flowers…

White 'Mount Everest' alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Allium neapolitanum

Features clusters of pure-white flowers which form umbels.

White 'neapolitanum' alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

General Advice

Most varieties of allium are available in bunches of ten stems, apart from Allium 'Globemaster' which tends to be sold in bunches of five stems and Allium schubertii which you can buy by the individual stem.

Alliums produce a chemical called cysteine sulfoxide, which gives them an onion smell. It can discolour water and make it smell. So, it's best to change the water regularly.
Some varieties have delicate flower heads and the florets can stick together. If you find the flower heads are little flattened from transit, it's been said that a good way of fluffing them out is to hold the stems upside down in between the palms of your hands and spin them to and fro.

Jonathan from J H Hart Flowers says: "Initially when alliums arrive at the Market at the beginning of April and then for 2-3 months, they're Dutch and then the Israeli alliums appear."

J H Hart with alliums at New Covent Garden Flower Market - May 2015

Design Inspiration

A very popular bloom for contracts, the allium varieties which have spherical flower heads work well in modern, minimal designs.

Longer stemmed alliums look wonderful in tall pedestal arrangements. And individual stems of Allium schubertii look lovely in slender vases down the centre of a dining table.

Here are some examples of beautiful floral designs featuring alliums…

Rebel Rebel design using alliums

(Source: Rebel Rebel)

McQueens design using alliums

(Source: McQueens)

Bloomsbury Flowers design using alliums

(Source: Bloomsbury Flowers)

Your Designs

We'd love to see photos of arrangements that you've made using alliums from New Covent Garden Flower Market. Simply send an email to info@cgma.co.uk, stating your company name and website address. Or if you prefer, you could post your photo on Twitter and copy us in, by including @MarketFlowers in your tweet. We'll then upload your photos into this section.

The White Horse Flower Company alliums arrangement

(Source: The White Horse Flower Company)

Rebel Rebel allium and eremus hanging meadow

(Source: Rebel Rebel)

I hope you've enjoyed reading this month's Product Profile. Please do ask away below if you have any questions or would like to make any general comments. As always, we'd love to hear from you.

P.S. Alliums are suitable for drying and can look fabulous in designs, whether used in their natural state or sprayed. 

Comment (2):

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Hello, I do live in Santiago-

Hello,

I do live in Santiago- Chile and are a small florist. Still I do have two questions, first one is WHAT CAN I DO WITH ALLIUMS , they stink and smell horrible as to be used in arrangements.

Second question is HOW DO YOU hydrate flowers hanging from the ceiling?

Many thanks,

Kristin

Hello Kristin Thank you very

Hello Kristin

Thank you very much for your comment.

Alliums naturally produce a chemical called cysteine sulfoxide, which gives them an onion smell and this can make the water smell. So, it's best to change the water regularly.

Regarding your other query, the majority of hanging installations are for one-off events and therefore they do not require water. You may like to visit floral artist Rebecca Louise Law's website though. She creates stunning floral installations and the flowers being left to dry naturally is part of the effect: http://www.rebeccalouiselaw.com/projects/

Best wishes
Rona