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Allium flavum

Allium flavum July tends to be a depressing month in the alpine garden. Not as bad as August, the low point of the year in my view, but going downhill all the way. The main spring display is long over, and the colchicums, cyclamens, sternbergias and crocus havenít yet started. Anything that regularly flowers in late July is a find, and if its easy to grow in any sunny well-drained spot throughout the UK, easily propagated by division at any time of year, non-invasive, dwarf, and makes a bonny patch of colour (even if the flowers are individually small) it is doubly welcome. I love the way the yellow flowers of Allium flavum contrast with the blue stems.

Allium flavum Visit the Austrian Tirol, home of our sponsors, in late July and on sunny, rocky knolls at moderate altitude you will stand a fair chance of finding our subject, contrasting nicely with the silver rosettes and reddish flowers of Sempervivum arachnoideum, mounds of Saxifraga paniculata, mats of Thymus serpyllum, violet Acinos alpinus perhaps, and dwarf yellow Teucrium montanum. All of these make good garden plants for a dryish spot and all flower in the garden in mid-summer (except the saxifrage which is a month earlier). However, this community, and our little yellow onion are not restricted to the southern Alps but range much further east, and you would find just the same community on most Greek mountains, for instance on Parnassos, or by the first of the rest-houses, Stavros, on Olympus (except the houseleek). Many of the Greek forms are dwarfer than those from the Tirol (var.minus), which might be thought to be a good thing, but the flowers too are smaller in this variety and less often a good yellow, so its probably best to stick to a good garden variety of the nominate plant. You will have it all your life and not regret it.

John Richards