When selecting fall bulbs of daffodils and tulips for spring bloom, why not try adding a few dramatic alliums to the mix? These tall lollipops, with heads that resemble chive blossoms on steroids, are, like chives, members of the garlic family. They're a perfect choice for perking up the perennial border in that period between the mad flush of spring bloom and the full onset of summer-flowering perennials, as many popular allium varieties bloom in late spring and early summer, with some holding their blossoms for as long as a month. These blossoms are striking in cut or dried bouquets. Another allium attribute is their lack of predator appeal: deer, mice, chipmunks, and other bulb bandits avoid them, thanks to the faintly garlicky scent of their leaves and bulbs. Allium flowers, however, which range in color from purple, pink and blue to yellow and white, have a pleasant scent, not the least bit oniony.

Allium bulbs have basically the same planting requirements as tulips. They grow best in full sun, with at least six to eight hours of direct sun a day. They need well-drained soil and, also like tulips, will thrive longest and multiply in numbers in locations where the soil is on the dry side during their summer dormancy. Bulbs are planted with the root end, or plate, down, pointed end up, and you'll need to take a bit more care in planting alliums than tulips or daffodils: plant too deeply and the bulb may be unable to push its stem up through the soil. A too-shallow planting can actually result in the tall stems toppling and wrenching the bulb from the soil. So follow planting instructions on the different sized bulbs. Allow four to six inches between bulbs and, on average, a planting depth of about three times the diameter of the bulb. This depth is measured from the bottom of the bulb to the ground level.

Which alliums to choose? If you're looking for back-of-the-border specimens, “Globemaster,” one of the largest selections, has huge reddish-purple heads that can be bigger than a softball. They bloom in late spring and often last longer than other alliums. A group of Globemaster alliums is a real eye-catcher, especially when planted with white or pink peonies, delphiniums or tall bearded iris. White-flowering “Mount Everest” is a bit shorter and is striking in front of shrubs with deep-green or burgundy foliage or rising out of a groundcover of burgundy ajuga.

“Triquetrum,” a less common selection, has drooping clusters of white flowers on golf-ball-sized heads and is a good selection for naturalizing in borders or woodland gardens. "Millennium" is a late-summer bloomer that adds a note of lavender to the border.

Don't forget that, like tulips, after alliums finish blooming for the season you must leave the foliage in place so that the leaves will gather sunlight, create food through photosynthesis and strengthen the bulb for the future. Leaves will yellow and die back as the plant slips into dormancy, and the foliage can be removed at this point.