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Garden Journal

Globemaster Alliums come back year after year

By Paul Barbano | Nov 06, 2013
Tiny, violet-purple florets cluster by the hundreds to form ball-shaped flower heads up to 10 inches across.

Gardeners often collect plants from around the globe. The idea that the Earth is a globe dates back to ancient Greeks. By the third century BC, Greek (Hellenistic) astronomy showed that a round Earth was a given fact.

The largest globe of earth on Earth is the 12-story-tall Unisphere built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Lights on the Unisphere show major national capitals with one extra light along the Saint Lawrence River at the Kahnawake (Caughnawaga) Indian Reservation in southern Quebec to honor the Mohawk Indians who built the Unisphere.

In the garden, you may not want a 12-story gleaming steel globe, but you can grow your own quite impressive flower globe, the Globemaster Allium.

This is the largest, and to many, Globemaster is the best Allium there is. Tiny, violet-purple florets cluster by the hundreds to form ball-shaped flower heads up to 10 inches across. These purple spheres are hoisted on thick stems. The effect is playful and surreal.

Alliums are often called Flowering Onions and like all onions, are not usually bothered by deer.

Globemaster has low-growing, shiny green leaves that keep their color right up to bloom time. The bright flowers last a full three weeks in the garden, but you can extend the show by carefully drying the blooms. The dried flowerheads can become a part of everlasting arrangements.

Your Globemaster Allium will bloom after all of the daffodils and tulips, but just in time for peonies.

Hardy in USDA zones 5 through 7, Allium Globemaster bulbs can be planted in the fall after the soil has cooled down to about 55 degrees F.

Plant these large bulbs with their pointed tip up, six to eight inches deep, and about eight to 10 inches apart. They need at least six hours of sunshine to bloom. Like most bulbs, they do best in soil with a neutral pH, around pH 7.0. Soil with a neutral pH lets bulbs grow substantial roots, and these roots in turn give you the best flowers.

Fertilize Allium Globemaster with a good organic bulb food scattered over the beds after fall planting time, again in very early spring when the green tips just begin to sprout, and fertilize again after the blooms begin to die back in late spring.

You can lay down a mulch of shay or grass clippings after the ground has frozen, but if your bulbs are planted deep enough, they probably will do fine without mulch.

These gentle giants come back for years and will even increase into small colonies. The mature bulbs develop small baby bulbs, called bulblets or offsets, that grow from the sides of the old bulb’s basal plate.

After a few years, your Globemaster Allium might need dividing. Simply dig them up carefully in the fall and separate the bulbs and bulblets and replant them immediately.

Plant Globemaster Alliums before your ground freezes, and for years to come you will have a fanciful accent in the garden or tucked among the ferns. Pick a few for a sweetheart because, round or flat, love is what makes the Earth go ’round.

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