Plant of the Week: Purple-flowered Onion

Photo by Friends of the High LineAllium atropurureum is the gothic beauty rising above the bright and cheerful blooms in the Chelsea Grasslands of the High Line. Photo by Friends of the High Line.
 

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 one of our gardeners’ current favorites with you.

These common alliums – garlic (Allium sativum), onion (Allium cepa), chive (Allium schoenprasum), leek (Allium ampeloprasum), scallion ( Allium wakeji) – are just a few of a genus of plants with some 900 recognized species. Used in nearly every culinary tradition worldwide and the very foundation of flavor in many, what would our food be without the ubiquitous allium? And what would the High Line be without the incredible array of ornamental alliums that rise and nod above the other plants in May and June?

EnlargeThe huge umbels of Allium christophii resemble bursts of fireworks. Photo by Phil Vachon

Allium, which is the ancient Latin for onion, are characterized by globes or half-globes of flowers atop sturdy stems that rise from a base of strappy leaves. Some are quite spectacular, such as Allium christophii, with its huge umbels of purple flowers up to a foot across that resemble bursts of fireworks. Allium ‘Mount Everest’ is a tall, sturdy variety with striking, perfect white snowballs of flowers early in May. Allium obliquum, or twisted leaf garlic, is notable for leaves that emerge twisted in helices, and stems that curl around themselves and terminate in small, bobbing chartreuse florets. Dig up anyone of these show-stopping plants, and you’ll find a bulb at the bottom with the telltale fragrance of an onion.

EnlargeAllium obliquum, or twisted leaf garlic, is notable for leaves that emerge twisted in helices. Photo by Friends of the High Line

This week, Allium atropurpureum is the gothic beauty rising above the bright and cheerful blooms in the Chelsea Grasslands of the High Line. This allium is named for its color – the Greek for dark is atro, hence atropurpureum for the deep, dark purple of the flowers. They are a striking exclamation point punctuating the grass-green landscape of early summer, and are particularly effective planted in small clusters. The strong stalks and seed heads are persistent long past bloom time, and well into autumn they can be found among the tall, golden brown grasses.

Nearly a dozen different ornamental onion species bloom all along the High Line from mid-May through June. Allium atropurpureum can be found between West 18th and West 20th Streets on the High Line.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
Nearly a dozen different ornamental onion species bloom all along the High Line from mid-May through June. Allium atropurpureum can be found between West 18th and West 20th Streets on the High Line.

Download our June bloom list.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line’s most important gardening projects – become a member of Friends of the High Line today!

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