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DIY Decorating with Dried Alliums, Your Garden’s Readymade Baubles

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DIY Decorating with Dried Alliums, Your Garden’s Readymade Baubles

December 20, 2023

Alliums may well be the jewels of the summer garden, springing into flower from early in the season and then standing with their ornate seedheads for many months more. But harvest them before winter sets in, and you’ll have exquisite jewels to decorate for the holidays, too. We take a closer look at these mesmerizing forms and ways to use them.

Photography by Clare Coulson except where noted.

Above: In summer at just over a foot tall, Allium christophii is short enough to nestle in amongst low-growing perennials and grasses, and they look stunning with swaying tufts of Stipa tenuissima and spires of verbascums, as seen here at Beth Chatto’s dry garden in Essex, U.K.

The most familiar allium to many gardeners will be A. hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’. The ever popular spring bulbs are often planted in swathes to produce a sea of rich color in midsummer. While these heads will dry well, they won’t have the impact of the supersize A. christophii, which produces huge heads with metallic mauve flowers.

Above: The allium’s star shaped seedheads are beautiful when left bare.

For many gardeners these seedheads provide useful structure in borders long after flowering. But ideally, to keep them in perfect form, remove them from the garden sometime in late summer and then stand or hang them to preserve their shape.

Above: In the my kitchen, heads of alliums are arranged through a framework of branches or in pots. The branches are illuminated with copper wired microlights, £4.99, Lights4Fun.

Once dried, the seedheads can be used in different ways. Create a structure using birch or hazel branches, perhaps arching around a window. Secure the main branches firmly to the wall (a hook will support the key branches) and then weave microlights around them. The featherlight allium balls can be placed carefully between branches where they won’t need any further support.

In his book The Flower Yard, Arthur Parkinson suggests cutting the stems down to a couple of inches and threading with wire, a delicate operation but one that results in giant baubles. “They can then be hung from the ceiling,” says Parkinson. “Golden stars floating in mid-air. They look especially beautiful en masse, hanging at different heights above a table.”

Above: Arthur Parkinson combines dried alliums with dried hydrangea, honesty and a colorful aviary of glass songbirds. Photograph by Arthur Parkinson.
Above: A bowl of paperwhite narcissi provide a scented contrast to branches and seedheads.
Above: Perfect seedheads sprayed gold can be stored and used for several years. Photograph by Arthur Parkinson.

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