Tag Archives: Vermont

A Lot to Learn About Allium

4 Aug

During our very brief visit to Vermont a couple of weekends ago, I was not only fortunate enough to see Beth’s asparagus forest, but I discovered that ignorance can lead to bliss.  In my case, I was admiring a clump of flowers at another friend’s house. Nan’s flowers had been battered by rain and were horizontal instead of vertical, and though they were a bit past their glory days, they still caught my eye. Maybe it was the charming way in which they were now peering over an old stone wall. Or perhaps it was because they were a color and shape I liked. Or maybe it was because unbeknownst to me, they were the same genus of plant I had in my own yard: Allium.


I like to think that had I looked more closely, I would have  known that. But when something appears so wholly out of context, it is sometimes hard to “see” it. Nan’s variety is called Drumstick Allium, and it was in bloom in July. The one I have in my garden is called Purple Sensation, and it blooms in early spring, like the few other alliums I know. The photo below shows the Purple Sensation on May 1.  In my defense, it is more open and fluffier than the Drumstick, and a different shade of purple, and upright….

What I discovered at Nan’s was that I had just spent two years thinking I could only have Allium in the spring, when in fact, it is possible for these ornamental onions to brighten any garden for almost three seasons of the year.

I am quite ready to admit that I am only an amateur gardener, which should by now be quite obvious to anyone reading this. But my ignorance led to such great delight at the discovery that I could have alliums in my garden for much longer than I thought, that I hope to never become jaded by the significant amount of gardening knowledge that awaits me.

Asparagus Forest

29 Jul

Come spring, and for as long as it’s available, asparagus holds a place of honor in our house. We are especially fond of very thin stalks, tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted at about 425 degrees until golden and slightly crispy at the tips. Cooked this way, asparagus never lasts more than a few minutes on our dining table and no matter how much I make, there is always at least one child looking mournfully at the empty platter. But… until this weekend, we had never seen asparagus growing, and it is as lovely to look at as it is to eat.

We made a whirlwind trip to Vermont and were lucky enough to see an old family friend, Beth, who has an asparagus forest. All it took was one look, and I decided that I absolutely have to try planting some asparagus next year, even if we will not be able to sample any of it for a while as it gets established.

Normally, the tender shoots that people eat are snapped or cut off just above ground level. But left to their own devices, the shoots grow tall and get woodier, the buds on the tips of the asparagus open and produce a wispy mass of branches and berries that turn bright red when ripe (though note that the berries should not be eaten). The little berries set against feathery foliage look ethereally festive, and when I saw the asparagus plants after a rainy afternoon, they were glistening.