|James Kohut, Staff Writer|
Every once in a while, we feel it's our responsibility at Northscaping to bring underrated or little known plants to the attention of northern gardeners. We too often lament that we don't have much to choose from when it comes to plants, and yet we ignore some wonderful garden beauties right under our noses.
Speaking of noses, gardeners have recently begun to appreciate the ornamental qualities of members of the Allium family, better known for their prowess in the vegetable garden, as the onions and garlic that provide us with wonderful flavors and aromas for our culinary creations. And yet many in this family are also highly ornamental as flowering perennials, are easy to grow, and best of all, are surprisingly hardy. Well, it's time for one of these garden wallflowers to take center stage!
Northern gardeners, meet the nodding onion. Despite a name that might imply eye-watering potency and rich red marinara sauces, this is in fact an ornamental flower from the onion family. It's name is no coincidence; it features delicate orchid-pink to plum-colored umbels of flowers with drooping stalks, producing an overall weeping effect to the flower heads. The flowers are borne from late spring into summer on leafless stalks that rise up from a base of grass-like leaves.
Nodding onion is easy to grow from seed, or can be planted as a bulb in either late fall or early spring. It is very adaptable and will grow well in pretty much any average garden conditions. Use it at the front of the garden border where its distinctive flowers and fine texture can truly be appreciated. After the flowering performance, around mid-summer, the plant begins to shut down for the year. As a result, it is best interplanted with late-summer bloomers. It can also be sheared back after flowering to produce a second flush of rich green growth.