Gardening Update: All about alliums

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ALLIUMS, by Dilys Davies (Batsford, pounds 17.99), is the first book on the subject for more than a hundred years. The family is huge, but the flowers, all built on the lollipop principle, have never hit the big time. Compared with the popularity of daffodils, tulips and crocus, they remain rather little known.

Their distinctive outline, however, makes them useful allies in planning your planting schemes. The seed heads remain equally telling several months after the flowers have faded. I am only at the beginning of an acquaintance with them, but it is one that I definitely want to pursue.

In this book, Dr Davies describes more than 200 species. The text is scholarly but not impenetrable, and there is a useful section on ways of using alliums in the garden. There are enough photographs to ease identification, though in a work of this sort, one would like to see every species illustrated. Allium caeruleum is going on my bulb order now.