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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Allium jesdianum ‘White Empress’: new this autumn

Posted by Graham Rice on 14 Sep 2010 at 08:17 AM

Allium,jesdianum,White Empress,’. Image © (all rights reserved)We tend to think of the bold drumstick alliums as being purple but there are some excellent white flowered varieties as well. First spotted on the Avon Bulbs exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show back in 2008, Allium jesdianum ‘White Empress’ is now available by mail order and deserves your attention.

The problem with some white forms of these invaluable alliums is that the stems are weak, and that the foliage is dying and curling up when the alliums are in flower. Not so with ‘White Empress’.

Reaching about 30in/75cm in height, and flowering in May, the stems are stout enough to hold the 4in/10cm flowers and the foliage remains in fairly good condition at flowering time so doesn’t distract our attention from the full heads of starry white flowers.

To be honest, I’ve not yet quite yet fathomed the origins of this plant. There seem to be two completely different stories, not helped by the fact that these alliums have been classified both as A. jesdianum and A. rosenbachianum.

One version of its origins is that ‘White Empress’ is a sport of A. rosenbachianum – although most of the plants grown as A. rosenbachianum are actually A. stipitatum! The other version is that ‘White Empress’ is a sister seedling of the purple A. jesdianum ‘Early Emperor’, differing only in its flower colour – although ‘Early Emperor’ is listed in the PlantFinder as a hybrid. Got that? Me neither!

Suffice it to say that A. jesdianum ‘Early Emperor’ is a fine white allium and well worth growing. It’s available from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries.


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