Simply (Purple) Sensational

april-28-2009-015-2Flowers are opening fast and furious now. It is getting difficult to keep up.april-24-2009-042-2Along the driveway is a narrow bed planted with our beloved muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris. Click here to read about it and see some photos from its bloom time in September. But what about the rest of the year? Not much splash in this very visible area, the view also from the window over the kitchen sink, very important. Last fall the idea emerged while perusing the bulb catalogs that perhaps alliums would be tall enough to grow up through the muhly for some pre-September interest.april-28-2009-003-21One hundred Allium hollandicum (aflatunense) ‘Purple Sensation’ were planted along with one hundred Allium sphaerocephalon, drumstick alliums in groups of five to a hole of each in the middle of the grass clumps last fall.april-28-2009-007-2The round ball buds have arisen this month, with their grand opening occuring now.april-24-2009-043-2Watching the florets unfurl has been a fascinating study.april-19-2009-047-2Each one unique and opening at its own pace. Just like human flowers.april-24-2009-047-2It seems the Alliums were a good choice for this spot. The muhly is just now starting to grow taller, no competition for showiness. We shall see how the drumstick allium works out.april-28-2009-005-2Here are some facts about this fine bulb taken from the Nature Hills Nursery online site. I normally include plant information from not for profits, like arboretums, but this had the best information. My bulbs were not purchased here, however. They came from Van Engelen.
Allium – Purple Sensation Details:
Plant FactsMature Height 26 – 34 inches
Soil Type Widely Adaptable
Moisture Average, Well Drained
Mature Form Upright, Spikes
Growth Rate Moderate
Sun Exposure Full Sun – Partial Sun
Flower Color Purple
Bulb Type Bulb
Bulb Spacing 4 – 5 inches
Planting Depth 5 inches
Flowering Period May
Zones 3-8
The Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, ‘ Allium aflatunenense’, a fall planted ornamental onion bulb, will produce purple flowers. This flower is sure to turn heads with its 4-inch wide globes of tightly packed pink-purple florets which sit at the top of a tall, thick, bare stem. The low strap-like foliage turns down as the plant blooms, making the spherical cluster of blooms a focal point in your garden. They are great for ornamental value and widely used for both landscape and cut flower purposes. The blooms are pleasantly fragrant and this plant is an easy and prolific addition to the garden. Plant in groups of ten or more for an eye catching focal point. Alliums prefer to be dry during their dormancy.

The Allium Purple Sensation is ideal for containers, mass plantings, borders, and cut flowers. These plants are rabbit, squirrel, and deer resistant. The Purple Sensation has a bloom period of about 3 weeks and they bloom in late spring to early summer.

april-28-2009-006-2Have I forgotten to mention lately that the azaleas are blooming? I like the way the Alliums are pointing the way along the gravel path towards them.april-28-2009-014-2All of the photos in this post were taken with the older camera, the Canon Powershot A720 IS. The relevance of the shots of oriental poppies, Papaver orientale in this story is to remind us that the pairing of the poppy with the alliums would have been sublime. There was a photo in a post from last year, maybe bloom day? that mentioned how nice these two colors blend as they have the same bloom time. But we planted pink and white astilbes behind the muhley. They are just beginning to send up bloom scapes and will bloom in May. I believe there is room for the poppies to get into the act also. Maybe enlarging the bed into the lawn would be a good idea? Oh, Financier dear, have you noticed how the lawn grass behind the muhly bed simply will not grow well? And look at all the clover that you hate so much. It sure would look nice with another row of your beloved muhly planted instead. Just a little digging, being sure to shake the soil from the lawn clumps, those can go right into the compost to help the veggies grow bigger and better, dearest.

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40 Responses to Simply (Purple) Sensational

  1. Joy says:

    Frances .. I love the “open letter” to the financier .. now how cute is that ? .. meanwhile back in Kingston .. husband is too happy to get rid of more lawn for me .. though this time he wants the landscaper to actually do the work .. how can I blame him ?
    I thought your flowers would take off (eh!) and become a thunderous wave of action there .. it is amazing !
    I really love the allium lined drive way. It makes a statement for sure !
    I found “Brilliant” ? sorry my mind is mush .. but a cultivar of poppy that is taller than most and intensely red .. hope to see them perform next year if not this one. How can you not have some sort of poppies in a garden ? : )

    Good morning, Joy, thanks. Too bad the Financier doesn’t read the blog! HA Having the landscapers do the work sounds perfect to me too, they don’t complain or give reasons not to do it! Your Brilliant poppy sounds delightful. I agree, poppies of all sorts are necessary in any garden. We are trying California poppies from seed in containers this year, they sprout very quickly and should give a good show, we hope. πŸ™‚ I always love a good *eh*.

  2. tina says:

    Those alliums look so good! I love all your designs. I ordered some ‘Purple Sensation’ this year, but they won’t come til later. Not sure where I’ll put them-that’s the hard part!!

    Hi Tina, thanks so much. I have had good luck with Purple S., trying them out with just a couple the year before. They have returned nicely and are budded. They are in a shadier more protected spot than these by the driveway so are a little behind. I might recommend your sunniest spot, maybe by the road for others to enjoy. πŸ™‚

  3. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, I like the idea of succession planting with just one plant taking the lime light at one time. It looks especially good in a long narrow border, edging a path or drive. Your border is an excellent example, I love it. Purple Sensation is a favouite of mine, I have these with poppies in the front – the two look lovely together and around rose bushes in the side. I have dug all the grass I am going to, well for this year!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia, thanks. I am just now getting the hang of the succession planting. It is fun, but a little harder than just buying those impulsive must haves. HA I will be moving some poppies into the mix later in the summer. They are a little hard to transplant, timing is everything. Your alliums and poppies sound splendid. πŸ™‚

  4. Tee hee, I hope the Financier gets the hint. I love those alliums. I have had terrible luck with them. The large ones bloom once then don’t return. Now the drumsticks did ok. I wish you luck with your beautiful stand of alliums. The poppy picutre is great. I just love them too. I have “one” poppy. It has a couple of buds on it. I sure wish it would multiply. I will be happy with her.

    Hi Lisa, thanks, me too, even if he doesn’t read the blog. HA I have found the purple sensation to come back better than the larger headed ones. These do not have that giant flower head, but are big enough for the same impact in the garden. Those oriental poppies that are the old fashioned orange, no name, do spread nicely if you can get them going. Mine are passalongs from our neighbors and have just now spread a lot. They are in the heather bed, and couldn’t penetrate the heathers. Now that most of those are gone, we have many many more poppies. Hooray!

  5. lynn says:

    ‘Morning, Frances:) Fast and furious is right on!! The 4 days of 90+ that we had here in NJ really did the trick! I love alliums and your border is amazing! And the Tiger Honey iris…to die for! Thanks for a great start to my day!

    Hi Lynn, thanks, I love a great start too! The heat wave is supposed to subside here and maybe spring will return. We were not ready for summer yet, the tomato plants were just planted and so wilty, even with lots of water.

  6. Frances — your alliums are beautiful! Great idea to plant them with the muhly. My poppies haven’t bloomed yet, so I don’t know if they will be open at the same time as the allium. I’ve mixed larkspur and poppies behind the nepeta, alliums and irises that are outside in the deer garden along the fence. The nepeta started blooming yesterday, but the alliums and irises are slower to bloom compared to the planting inside the cottage garden. Same with the larkspur and poppies — the cottage garden is ahead of the deer garden. I fear I’ll miss the show while I’m in France for over a week. But, I can’t be a slave to my garden and not take a break! LOL Hope you get to expand the garden. We’ve got the opposite problem — The Musician wants to expand our deer garden, but I feel like it’s all I can do to keep up with what we already have.


    Hi Cameron, thanks. It sounds like your pairings are wonderful. Getting that bloom time right is tricky, especially since it is different every year! That is hilarious, you are the one who doesn’t want the garden larger. I have to admit to letting the weeding go this year, that is the most time consuming job and the plants don’t care at all. I learned that lesson from daughter Semi. I pull the ones that bug me the most, but walk right be the rest, very freeing! As for missing your garden while in France, Hmmmmm, let me think that one over for a millisecond, France wins everytime! HA Hope you have a wonderful trip. πŸ™‚

  7. Racquel says:

    I planted some Purple Sensation last fall too, but not as many as you did. What a feat, 100 bulbs? You are a marvel indeed. They look pretty happy filling in for the Muhly Grass. I love the drumstick alliums, grown them for years and they just multiply like crazy getting fuller and better. πŸ™‚

    Hi Racquel, thanks. I decided that there needed to be a lot of the bulbs for any kind of show, the space is quite long. Van Engelen makes buying the larger quantities a much better deal too. Twenty holes were dug, with a hand spade since the muhly takes up most of the space and the bulbs crammed in together. The holes were not nearly as deep as they should have been either, but I have found the bulbs are not that picky and will pull themselves down to the proper depth over the years. Mulching the whole bed each year will help cover them up too. Good deal on the drumsticks, I added them for later interest, glad to hear they multiply. Hooray!

  8. teza says:

    Though I love Allium ( especially A. christophii) I find I am in too shaded a position. Methinks its time to dig up the small area of grass to the left of the walkway…. now where did I put my Financi…. oh that’s right, still on the to-do list! Gorgeous photos and post as usual!

    Hi Teza, you are so funny, thanks! If your only sunny spot is lawn, this seems like a no brainer! I saved seeds from christophii the first year and the babies are now blooming size. They all germinated and were spaced out the last couple of years to grow on. They looked like blades of grass for the first few years. It was five or six years from seed planting to blooming size, but think of the savings! πŸ™‚

  9. Darla says:

    Yes that was a great choice with the alliums in that area. I have two that are just now emerging from the soil.

    Hi Darla, thanks. Mine were planted last fall, I assume yours were planted more recently?

  10. Gail says:

    Frances, Good morning…you’ve captured the beauty of Sensation perfectly. I planted several dozen and they haven’t the impact that yours do! (add to $$$$ list!) What a great idea to plant them with the muhly.(another plant on the $$$$ list) …and the poppy is luscious! (where’s that #$*$ list!)and a new camera that includes photography lessons…The list is long! Btw, The closeups are wonderful, but I love the azaleas seen in the long shot! gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. Several dozen sounds like plenty, if planted all close together. We’ll see if they return well after being jammed into the holes close as possible. You are so right about lessons for the new cameras too. I am just using the old stand by since I am one with it on the macro. It is so much easier to just grab it when the mood for picture taking hits. Must work on that. You should see the azaleas, they are having a good year. πŸ™‚

  11. Nice idea my friend. I planted Alliums for the first time last fall too. I planted white ones also (they were part of the package) and I don’t like them as much because they look like giant onions. I already have green onions in my garden. πŸ™‚

    I’ve also enjoyed watching them slowly unfurl their blooms. So amazing and time consuming. Like watching a flower in slow motion. The poppy and allium combo will be really cool.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, thanks so much. I agree the white ones look similar to the edibles, even the garlic flower is similar. I have seen photos of the whites mixed with purples that look good though. I have those garlic chives that spread everywhere and bloom later that are quite nice looking, but I make sure to not let them set seed. At least they are edible! I have one patch with 5 of the purple sensation next to the poppies planted year before last. Why didn’t I remember that combo? The poppies can be added in the fall, but that muhly bed will be in full bloom then, it will be hard to squeeze the poppies in. Must use smaller pieces and maybe have to wait for them to get blooming size. πŸ™‚

  12. ourfriendben says:

    I agree about the poppies and alliums, Frances, but your alliums are still sensational all by themselves! I didn’t know Muhly grass until I saw yours last year and was completely smitten. Then of course I saw it on visits home to Nashville, though I’d never seen it there before. Talk about a to-die-for plant! I wonder if it would live in a container here if I wintered it in the greenhouse? And incidentally, how’s the Admiral holding up?

    Hi OFB, thanks. I was thinking the astilbes would be waving their airy stalks behind the purples, and they may yet. But poppies can easily be stuck in there this fall. Well not easily, but doable. I don’t know what to tell you about the muhly. I gave some to a friend in Berwick who is able to winter it over in the ground surrounded by larger plants and well mulched. The Admiral is on the downhill slide now, still colorful but the blooms are dropping. Since he is the first to open, he looks sort of shabby as the later ones begin, but from afar, all you see is his nice yellow coloration. Thanks for asking. πŸ™‚

  13. Carol says:

    Frances as always you have gorgeous light and photography of your stunning gardens! A treat! Love the muhly grass in bloom and all the rest…

    Hi Carol, thanks. It is ALL about the light conditions to get those shots. The muhly is a wonder and thrills us every year in the fall.

  14. Catherine says:

    Beautiful lighting in your pictures! You’ve just confirmed that I must add alliums this year. I look at them every spring and think how pretty they are. I can’t wait to see what else you have blooming πŸ™‚

    Hi Catherine, thanks. It is all about the light. Spring is the time of the most things in bloom at one time. Later will be the daylilies and smaller perennials. This is the biggest part of the show, right now.

  15. keewee says:

    All I can think of to say, is WOW!!

    Hi Keewee, thanks. πŸ™‚

  16. Victoria says:

    We’ve always enjoyed our giant alliums. Great, reliable bulbs.

    Hi Victoria, yes, they are great. These are not the giant sized ones though, but still nice, a nicer darker purple.

  17. Joanne says:

    Love your way with the Financier. But really love your photographs of flowers and thank you for mentioning what camera you use. One for me to consider after I have consulted my daughter on her suggestions. I particularly loved the Wisteria two posts ago with the sky it looks amazing.

    Hi Joanne, thanks and welcome. Dear Financier, we’ll see if he can be persuaded to do the digging. He is quite time challenged but might be able to squeeze this job in. As for the camera, all the Canon Powershots are wonderful and easy to use. The wisteria at the Biltmore was the prettiest I have ever seen.

  18. Hi Frances

    Nothing comes close to them ‘en masse’ !

    I clicked through to the muhly grass post. Showstopper.

    Good bit of succession planting as they say.


    Hi Rob, thanks. Isn’t it sad and expensively true, en masse is the best show for everything! I am so glad you read the muhly grass post, in the fall, it stops traffic in front of my house every day. No one every knows what it is, but want to! πŸ™‚

  19. Janet says:

    Hi Frances, Great planting combos!1 Clever to keep the grasses with the allium. (May steal that idea!) That poppy is just beautiful. I am a big fan of purple!

    Hi Janet, thanks. Feel free to steal anything you see on my blog, if it was a secret, it wouldn’t be out there. πŸ™‚

  20. VW says:

    You do projects on a large scale! The 100 alliums look great. Hopefully the financier acquiesces to you pleadings and enlarges the bed for the poppies. My hubby’s done a bit of that this spring, too.

    Hi VW, thanks. I have found that thinking big is the best way with gardening. Most viewing is not done on macro! HA I had already begun working on the Financier about how awful the grass looks behind the muhly row, I think he will go for it. πŸ™‚

  21. easygardener says:

    A very effective combination and it’s great that you had room for so many as they look so good standing to attention in a long row.

    Hi EG, thanks. There honestly was barely any room among the muhly, so the bulbs were squeezed into small holes in between and not nearly as deep as they should be. We’ll see what next year brings them, with poppies smashed in there as well.

  22. Brenda Kula says:

    I meant to plant alliums. They look like a row of soldiers lined up and saluting. Sometimes the best part of a bloom is watching it unfold. Therein lies the miracle of nature.

    Hi Brenda, so true. I actually tried to not have them in a row, they are in twenty round groups, it just doesn’t show that way in the photos. I adore watching and photographing an unfolding bloom as much as the full bloom opened.

  23. gittan says:

    That look real good with all those Alliums along the driveway! I’m adding some more every year, but never that many =) This spring I bought one white just to see if i liked it. Can hardly wait untill the Alliums bloom here / gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks. Van Engelen is a wholesale bulb outfit that sells to the public. It is a great savings to buy them 50 or 100 at a pop. I had bought 5 of them the year before as a test and they performed well and came back nicely too. But 5 are barely noticable in the long views of the garden. πŸ™‚

  24. Randy says:

    Jamie and I have been playing with the idea of getting some Alliums. I think you just helped make our minds up! Beautiful display. As for you comments on JH Garden. You aren’t that far away you know. LOL πŸ™‚

    Hi Randy, thanks. Do be sure and get plenty of the alliums for a good show. Van Engelen is my go to place for large numbers like that, a big savings. You are right about the JH garden too, someday….. Better yet, how about hosting a spring fling for the garden bloggers and including that site on the agenda! πŸ™‚

  25. Lisa says:

    That’s a great idea! I think it looks terrific, I sure hope my muhly grass looks that good (just biught some, never tried it before.)

    Hi Lisa, thanks. It has taken years for the muhly to be divided to the point of having that kind of display. Put it all together for the best show. Good luck with it!

  26. Alliums are indeed interesting to watch open. And don’t worry, we all remember and envy your muhly grass! πŸ™‚

    Hi Monica, thanks, I certainly don’t want the muhly grass to feel badly. πŸ™‚ It took over a week for the alliums to open fully. I was checking carefully, knowing as soon as I went out of town, it would happen. It did. πŸ™‚

  27. Chloe M. says:


    Sensational indeed! I also loved the earlier post on Iris – especially the ‘Tiger Honey’! That coloration is simply too beautiful.

    Chloe M.

    Hi Chloe, thanks so much, so nice to see you. Tiger Honey is having a banner year, after several with no blooms at all. Nice to know where it is in the garden too, for all the bearded iris leaves look alive when not in bloom. I have been afraid to get rid of any without knowing what they were. Now the thinning can begin. πŸ™‚

  28. Daphne Gould says:

    Wow a husband that will actually do some work in the garden. I want one of those ;>

    HA Daphne, be careful what you wish for! The Financier is asked to help with the heavy or difficult stuff. Not because he likes gardening, but because I am weak and helpless, and he is so very strong. πŸ™‚

  29. Cheryl says:

    Hi Frances,

    I have enjoyed your blog very much for a while and thought I would finally say “thanks”! I have learned a lot and gotten a lot of inspiration from you. I also have a question-what variety of oriental poppy is that, with purple instead of black centers?

    Hi Cheryl, thanks and welcome. I am so glad you decided to leave a comment, and also so glad you have found useful tips here. That poppy is the plain old orange, a passalong from neighbors. The lighting and macro on the camera managed to show the true colors of the center. I was quite surprised when the shot was loaded onto the computer. It has not been altered in anyway.

  30. marmee says:


    one day i hope to have so many things blooming i won’t be able to keep up…love the well everything you’ve got exploding around there. the poppy amazing. wow is all i can think of…not very profound.

    Hi Marmee, thanks. Profundity not required here. My advice is to plant, plant, plant. I have slowed down a little with adding new things, more time spent moving and tweaking what is here. Seeds are an excellent way to get lots of plants for little money. Many perennials can be started that way. Annuals are nice, but unless they are good self sowers, they won’t help much with that overflowing abundance. Try everything at least three times. Oops, sorry, got carried away there with advice. πŸ™‚

  31. I think ‘Purple Sensation’ is the Allium I planted last fall. Great minds think alike?

    Hi MMD, well, yes, they apparently do. HA Didn’t you have the drumstick alliums? I remember seeing them someplace and was struck by the interest they gave later in the season with charming color and form. That is why they were added with the Purple S. πŸ™‚

  32. Genevieve says:

    I love the poppy centers! I have never noticed how very purple they are… Purple’s my favorite color EVER, but I hate the smell and taste of onions, so I’m not sure I can rave about your alliums. They stink pretty good if you get up close and personal with them.

    Hi Genevieve, thanks. I didn’t even think about the color of the centers, the petals just about blind one! HA I have not noticed the fragrance of the purple sensation being particularly onion-y, but those garlic chives, hooboy! They are garlic and onion rolled up into one stinky package.

  33. Pam/Digging says:

    Alas, Austin is too warm for alliums, but I do love them. And they look marvelous massed in your muhly bed in spring. Great idea!

    So sorry, Pam, but thanks for the compliment. We are hoping the drumsticks do as well. But of course you can grow so many wonderful things we cannot, like that Bulbine! πŸ™‚

  34. Ah! If I had a lot more sun and space for them, those alliums would be marching around here, too. Aren’t they great?? πŸ™‚

    Hi Shady, they really do give a nice punch during this interval between the spring bulbs and the summer lilies and daylilies.

  35. joey says:

    I can’t keep up either, Frances, and sure miss visiting! These are 2 of my stunning favorites (both waiting their turn to strut in my garden) and, as your fine shots show, fun to photograph.

    Hi Joey, thanks, I miss being able to visit the blogs right now too. During the winter it is so much easier to find time to do everything we want to do. Right now the garden calls and I answer, knowing the heat of summer will force me back inside soon enough.

  36. Cindy, MCOK says:

    We can’t grow alliums here but seeing those makes me wish once again that we could. Ah, well, I’ll enjoy yours instead. Great idea to plant them amongst the Muhly. I scored 15-20 pots of the latter on clearance at Lowe’s. My garage wall is now lined with 11 of them (actually 10, that reminds me, I need to replace one that had to be yanked). I expect them to be easier to maintain than the Miscanthus that was there.

    Hi Cindy, thanks. I didn’t realize the alliums didn’t grow there until Pam mentioned it too. Great news about the muhly however, you must be thrilled to get so many at bargain basement prices!

  37. Barbara says:

    Frances – a red poppy with a purple centre – brilliant. My old poppies are black in the centre, must be your wonderful magic soil or perhaps those fairies…. Still looking for my best pairing with Sensation – have mine with a Persicaria polymorpha – starting to look like a wrestling match. Although did see them interplanted in Toronto with a short variety of spirea. Practically caused an accident when I slowed to figure out the planting….hard to believe there are those who don’t brake for a good garden.

    Hi Barbara, thanks, but these are not special poppies, or maybe they are, since they were passalongs I really don’t know. I never noticed the centers until the photos were loaded onto the computer, it is not visible to my eyes just looking out into the garden. A wrestling match seems an exciting bit of entertainment in your garden! HA I always slow down for good gardens too, better to pull over if poosible. πŸ™‚ I have been to Toronto and understand the traffic issues there though, do be careful.

  38. Rose says:

    Frances, I think I have allium envy! Your photos are just gorgeous…I’m going to have to find some new adjectives to describe your photos from now on. Every fall I drool over the bulb catalogs and think I really should plant some alliums…then I get carried away with tulips and daffodils, and the alliums get cut from the order. Not this year! You’ve convinced me, and I even have a few places to put them without convincing Hubby to part with a little more lawn:)

    Hi Rose, thanks. I used to do the same thing with the alliums, passing them over for the showier bulbs, but this was a distinct plan for time of bloom, color and height. Only these alliums would do. We shall see how the drumsticks pan out and there is still the pink and white astilbe behind the muhly just beginning to send up spikes. May I suggest you plant these close together, en masse, for best effect. πŸ™‚

  39. Sweet Bay says:

    Oooo, I love that allium. How gorgeous!

    Hi Sweetbay, thanks. So glad you like our bloomin’ onions! πŸ™‚

  40. Katarina says:

    Frances, your choice of bulbs for your border seems perfect! Sensations ‘en masse’, surely!

    Hi Katarina, thanks so much. Everything en masse looks wonderful, doesn’t it? Not always possible but this bit is bringing a smile as I look out the kitchen window. πŸ™‚

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