The genus in which garlic is included, the aromatic plant widely used in cooking, also includes onions, leeks, shallots; many do not know that in addition to these mainly culinary uses there are dozens and dozens of varieties of garlic, which do not produce bulbs particularly interesting in the kitchen, but in spring they amaze us with incredible blooms. In fact, even the garlic flower, allium sativum, is definitely very pleasant and ornamental, as well as that of the chives, allium schoenoprasum. Certainly though the ornamental flowers are decidedly more beautiful and decorative.
Approximately five hundred species and varieties of plants belong to the allium genus, widespread mainly in Europe and Asia; they are bulbous, therefore they all produce a squat enlarged stem underground, in which they store the nutrients, from year to year. Allium bulbs vary in size, depending on the species, and range from a few centimeters in diameter to 15-20 cm in the larger species. In spring they produce thin elongated leaves, flattened or cylindrical, fleshy, erect, high from 25 to 125 cm; the leaves of the alliums are very aromatic, and if wrinkled they give off the typical aroma of chives. In summer, when the foliage begins to dry out, the plant produces thin stems that carry globose or umbrella-like inflorescences at the apex, made up of many small white, pink, lilac, blue, violet or blue flowers.
The inflorescences of garlic are very particular, and range from small flowers no larger than 2-3 cm, as in the case of chives, up to the large flower balls of allium giganteum, which can measure 15-20 cm in diameter. After flowering, which lasts a few weeks, the plant dries, until it completely loses the aerial part, which will return the following spring.
How to cultivate ornamental plants
These bulbous plants are easy to grow; many species are of Italian origin, many others of European origin; they prefer bright, well-sunny positions, and they like loose, well-drained, not excessively compact or clayey soils. We can cultivate the garlics alongside the other more common bulbous plants, such as tulips or daffodils, they will find themselves very well.
We have them available considering the size of the bulb: the depth will be about one and a half times the diameter of the bulb, the distance between the bulbs will be the same; we remember that the small garlics, which produce a vegetation at the most 15-25 cm high, are much more effective if planted in small groups, while the larger ones are very beautiful even as single specimens.
Most species do not fear the cold, therefore they can be left on the ground for the wild, some species instead are native to countries with slightly milder climate than that of northern Italy, so we will take care to unearth the bulbs at arrival of autumn, to put them back on the ground in spring.
In any case, generally garlic species are used which are very suitable for the run-in; in addition to the production of bulbils over the years, some are also propagated by seed, and therefore tend to become weeds, for this reason it may be a good idea to remove the withered flowers, before the plant produces the seeds and disperses them in the garden .
They are not particularly demanding plants, so we can also place them in the flowerbed far from home; in spring generally the bulbs awaken with the first rains; the garlics are quite vigorous and drought-resistant plants, but to obtain beautiful and luxuriant flowers it is advisable to water the plants in the hottest and most dry periods.
We can grow our garlic in pots, as long as we have a large and deep container, we avoid placing them in geraniums trays, especially if we have chosen to cultivate one of the large species.
Garlic - Allium: An aromatic in the flower beds
Most ornamental species give off the same pungent aroma as the garlic we use in the kitchen; for this reason it may not be pleasant to place the ornamental decorations on the terrace.
The aroma of garlic seems to help keep away some insects, which do not like the intense sulphurous scent, so instead of planting garlic in the flowerbeds of the garden, we can try to chase away the insects by growing an ornamental garlic, of which we will not be able to use the bulb at the end of the season to enrich the sauce, but in return will give us beautiful flowers.
Most of the garlic flowers they resist very well even if dried; to get large flowers for our compositions, remove them when they are in full bloom, and let them dry hanging upside down, in a cool, airy and dark place, to better preserve the color.