Back in the autumn I wrote a blogpost here about alliums. Happily, looking out at my garden this morning, I stand by every enthusiastic word – the alliums have been amazing now for nearly a month – and they have got me thinking more generally about the colour purple in the garden.
These alliums, with heads about the size of tennis balls come in a vibrant deep purple, (Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’), or a softer mauvy shade, (Allium hollandicum aflatunense), both are spectacular in bud, full flower, in the seedhead stage and long lasting in the vase too. What is more they seem to naturalise and bulk up well, I am not sure if by self-seeding or creating bulblets, but this year there are probably twice as many as I planted about four years ago, with no help from me.
They are certainly a strong blast of colour this time of year, but it has struck me that even very intense hues of purple are so easy on the eye when mixed in with greens in a garden situation – less super-girly than pinks en masse, less attention grabbing than bright reds or oranges, and I find easier to mix with other colours than yellow or tawny shades. Working well in bright sun or overcast/shady situations and blending beautifully with other colours, purple really is an easy and rewarding colour to play with in a garden planting scheme, and there are so many plants to choose from!
I have enjoyed planting my alliums with the dark stemmed Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, and the deepest blacky-purple elder, Sambucas nigra ‘Black lace’ as well as bronze fennel in one of my borders – the bright purples singing against the darker background provided by the dark foliage plants, an unexpected combination perhaps, but interesting.
More obvious perhaps but still lovely, is the combination of purples with the bright, acid greens of mid/late spring foliage – the limey tones really make the purples pop! Lady’s Mantel, euphorbia oblongata and the gorgeous feathery foliage of nigella are easy to grow, low maintainance and happily self-seeding companions for purple flowers, and I have used them extensively with my alliums. An added bonus of these plants is they also provide lower growing foliage which covers up the increasingly tatty leaves of alliums, their only downside.
I have also enjoyed planting my alliums with other purple and lilac hued flowers, they blend beautifully with nepeta which has its first flush of flowers at exactly the right time, as does the elegant Salvia ‘East Friesland’ – I have both planted here with the towering grass, Stipa Gigantea above, with stocks and Lady’s Mantel below. The different intensities of the purple tones work well when blended by the swathes of green.
As these alliums are just going over and showing off their funky seedheads , another larger star-burst allium, Allium Christophii is just erupting, and carries on the fireworks with a more metallic tone to the violet petals.
These alliums, like the mauve ‘aflatunense’ ones, also sit well with the more grey-green leaved plants like lavender, sage and sedums – providing a more muted, pastel combination.
In other parts of the garden more purple-y combinations abound. The rip-roaring and wonderfully scented biennial sweet rocket, (Hesperis matronalis), self seeds like billy-oh, providing zingy violet splashes that look great with the limey coloured plants already described, as well as the spires of deepest purple delphiniums and purple Centaurea montana.
Larkspur join in the fun slightly later. All these plants have the ability to weave well together with pinks, indigo-blues and whites, with both green and silver foliage, and provide some playful contrast with bright oranges and yellows.
Perhaps you have some favourite purple plants, or interesting combinations – please share them in the comments if you do, there are so many more lovely purple flowers I haven’t space to mention! Nearly all the flowers in the photos here are available on the Sarah Raven website and have grown brilliantly for me. Enjoy your purple haze!
Thanks for reading,