The birth of a monster – Allium shubertii

Allium shubertii
This past February, at a Portland garden show, I came across this gigantic seed head on display. It turned out to be an Allium shubertii, the like of which I had never seen before. The vendor was selling sprouting bulbs, and against better sense, I brought one home. Hopelessly scale-inappropriate for my tiny, stamp-sized city lot – yet I was intrigued.  I just had to try it out! I plunked it down where there was a bit of room available.

It started expanding almost immediately. A pretty rosette of fresh green leaves and a drop-shaped bud.

It started expanding almost immediately. A pretty rosette of fresh green leaves and a drop-shaped bud.

In April, the bud started breaking apart, and I got a first peek at what was to come.

In April, the bud started breaking apart, and I got a first peek at what was to come.

It's mid-May, and it's well on its way. The stalks of varying lengths are beginning to shoot out. Still no hint of its color, though...

It’s mid-May, and it’s well on its way. The stalks are emerging and beginning to unfold. It resembles a large paint brush, but there is still no hint of its color, though…

Here it is opening up, and I can't exactly say that it is very attractive. I also noticed that it was listing toward the sun - obviously I had planted it where it didn't quite get enough light. It's a bright enough spot, but definitely not sun ray-centric enough for this marvel. It would have to be moved at some point, but this would require more work than I was ready for at the moment, so I let it languish for a while.

Here the buds are opening up, and I can’t exactly say that I find it very attractive. It’s more of a spectacle than a stunner – not unlike something you might expect to find in a Dr. Seuss book. I notice that it is listing toward the sun – obviously I had planted it where it didn’t quite get enough light. It’s a bright enough spot, but definitely not sun ray-centric enough for this marvel. It will have to be moved at some point, but this will require more work than I am ready for at the moment, so I let it languish for a while longer.

I also wasn't overly excited about the color it showed. Not that I mind it, but I just didn't have a whole lot of other plants with that timid a color. Placement would require some thinking...

Here it is in all its glory. I admit to not being overly excited about the color it displayed. Not that I mind it, but I just didn’t have a whole lot of other plants with that timid a color. It’s a little pinker than its smaller cousin Allium christophii. Close up, each flower is decidedly a violet shade of pink, but due to its size, each flower is pretty much on its own.  The sheer expanse of the total blanches it out significantly. Placement would definitely require some thinking…

Little individual violet-pink stars exploding outward on long stamens bursting forth from the center - this thing is huge! Imposing in size, yet timid in color - it is somewhat puzzling and paradoxical. I'm still thinking...

Little individual violet-pink stars exploding outward on stalks of varying lengths, bursting forth from the center – this thing is huge! Imposing in size, yet somewhat timid in color – it is both a little puzzling and paradoxical. Hmmm… how to make this diva sing?  I’m still thinking… The Purple Sensation alliums are much easier – tight, bright purple spheres that pop against almost any background. This is a different animal all together – huge, light, airy, and with that somewhat washed out appearance to boot….

Okay, I had to measure it... Holy cow - 21 inches in diameter. This Allium only gets about as tall as the diameter of its flower, so it's rather stout in appearance. At this point, the flowers are pretty much spent, and any matchmaking is pretty much guesswork.

Okay, I had to measure it… Holy cow – 21 inches in diameter. This Allium only gets about as tall as the diameter of its flower, so it’s rather stout in appearance. At this point, the flowering is over, and any matchmaking is pretty much guesswork.

I finally decided to try it against this New Zealand Flax. It will eventually have enough height to provide a suitable backdrop, and the glossy brownish leaves with the pink edges will likely enhance the airy stars. The Allium only gets about as tall as the diameter of its flower, so it's rather stout in appearance.

After most of the blossoms were gone, I finally decided to try partnering it with this New Zealand Flax. It will eventually have enough height to provide a suitable backdrop, and the glossy brownish leaves with the pink edges will likely enhance the airy stars. This poor flax had been sitting in its nursery pot for over a year – which is what usually happens when I buy something pink.  Not sure why, but that’s how it is. It’s just not a color you see a lot of in my garden, so I always wonder what in the world I was thinking once I get home from my shopping spree. The color isn’t anywhere near a perfect match, but I always enjoy the game of pushing boundaries. Sometimes the most unlikely partners blur together into the most alluring display! We’ll see for sure next year what it looks like…

For some reason I also think that it might look interesting shooting out of a mound of purple sage - Salvia officinalis 'Atropurpureum'. Both Allium, Flax and Sage are decidedly sun-lovers. I also like how the soft fuzzy leaves of the sage contrast with the glossy, swordlike blades of the flax.

For some reason I also think that it might look interesting shooting out of a mound of the grayish purple sage – Salvia officinalis ‘Atropurpureum’. Both Allium, Flax and Sage are decidedly sun-lovers. Aside from the bright purple veins, I also like how the soft fuzzy leaves of the sage contrast with the glossy, swordlike blades of the flax. I haven’t yet put the three together, and by now it’s getting too hot and dry. I should probably wait until fall before I start moving things around again…

Not the best photo, but here you can see it against the Flax. Perhaps by next year the Flax has had time to grow enough to catch up in scale to this monster Allium. And, if the kids are willing and able, by next summer the wall behind it will be a pretty shade of blue. That ought to help matters along too! For now, I'll just wait for the seeds to scatter around. With a little luck, next year there will be new mini-monsters! Fingers crossed!

Not the best photo, but here you can see it against the Flax. Perhaps by next year the Flax has had time to grow enough to catch up in scale to this Monster Allium. And, if the kids are willing and able, by next summer the wall behind it will be a pretty shade of blue. That ought to help matters along too! For now, I’ll just wait for the seeds to scatter around. With a little luck, next year there will be new mini-monsters – in addition to the kids! Fingers crossed!

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About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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6 Responses to The birth of a monster – Allium shubertii

  1. At least you will have the fabulous seedhead to put in a pot indoors all winter, Anna!

    • annamadeit says:

      Yeah, but I won’t bring it in until all the seeds have scattered! Wish I had room for a whole mogul field of these – imagine an undulating field covered with some kind of ground cover – say clover – and then these monsters scattered throughout, as far as the eye could see. Big, round balls disappearing into the horizon… It would be so weird and otherworldly, it would be cool!

  2. Ricki Grady says:

    Alliums produce a lot of seed, but I’ve never known them to produce anything. I enjoyed reading your Schubertian Saga. It left me wondering what next year will bring. You WILL tell us, won’t you?

  3. jenmuddybootdreams says:

    I do love them…lined up, scattered throughout, they are so sculptural.

    Jen

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