Plant of the Week: Mt. Everest ornamental onion

Late spring at the High Line is dominated by showy Allium blooms. The Chelsea Grasslands, between West 17th and West 20th Streets, is an especially good place to observe a variety of Alliums including Mt. Everest ornamental onion. Photo by Steven Severinghaus

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

Mt. Everest ornamental onion, Allium ‘Mt. Everest,’ is one late spring’s most iconic blooms at the High Line. Ornamental onions have characteristic spherical blooms, or umbels, that are made up of hundreds of tiny flowers, giving the appearance of an explosion of fireworks atop a long green stalk.

Allium is a genus of hundreds of flowering plants, commonly referred to as the “onion genus.” This genus includes a variety of edibles you’ll recognize, like onions, garlic, leeks, and chives. Most Allium species are native to Asia and the Middle East, where edible varieties were used for cooking, medicine, and even antiseptic purposes. These species quickly spread as explorers took them back to their native countries. Now you’ll find them in use in almost all areas of the world.

All Allium species are grown from bulbs. Ornamental varieties, like Mt. Everest ornamental onion, are planted in the fall and then pop up in the late spring. While the blooms and foliage seem to die back in the summer, the plant’s energy is stored in the bulb and the plants will reemerge the following spring. Enjoy blooms this time of year and stop by later in the summer and fall to enjoy the seed heads and architectural dried stalks of the High Line’s Alliums.

On the High Line at West 17th Street

Download our May Bloom Guide.

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