Chelsea Flower Show: Frances Tophill shares ‘solution’ to ‘problem’ squirrels eating bulbs

Frances Tophill on how to look after alliums

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All this week at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show fairground, gardening expert Frances Tophill will be scouring the show ground for her favourite blooms. Today, she started by looking at “one of the most fashionable of the summer-flowering bulbs”, alliums. Alliums are a member of the onion family that can be found in the wild, all over the northern hemisphere.

On the Warmenhoven stand at the Chelsea Flower Show, there are more than 25 different varieties.

The stand shows people the full range of alliums have to offer.

Despite their complex appearance, alliums are actually fairly straightforward to grow and are a “solution” for those who often find their bulbs are dug up by squirrels.

Frances said: “Now when it comes to growing alliums, all you need to do is give them a sunny and fairly well-drained position and they should come back year after year.

“When you bury the bulbs, make sure they’re at least twice the depth of the bulb and if it’s a really big flower head, even deeper.

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“Just so it’s really well anchored in the soil.

“Now squirrels do have a habit of digging up and eating our prized bulbs, but they seem not to be quite so keen on alliums.

“So if that’s a problem for you and your garden, and these might just be your solution.”

The first variety of alliums Frances showed viewers was the allium cristophii.

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The variety was introduced in 1903 and can have up to 100 small flowers on one single head.

Frances described the flower as “pretty breathtaking”.

Another variety Frances showed viewers was the allium sphaerocephalon, also known as the “drumstick allium”.

This variety looks very different compared to the classic allium flower.

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The flower is taller and more slender with a smaller flower.

Frances said this variety “looks especially beautiful” when planted amongst ornamental grasses.

The gardening expert also showcased the “epitome of a classic allium”, known as “purple sensation”.

For something “really different”, gardeners may want to try an allium variety known as “art” or perhaps the allium sativum var. ophioscorodon.

This allium is edible and looks best just before it flowers with its vibrant green, curly stems.

There are 39 gardens at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show which are all unique.

RHS Chelsea Flower Show coverage is available to watch on BBC One at 3.45pm and BBC Two at 8pm.

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