It’s a clump-forming perennial from South Africa with attractive grass-like foliage and lavender-colored flowers on 2-foot stems that seem to last forever. It grows well in full sun and doesn’t seem to be fussy about soil. While it spreads by rhizome, it does so slowly and predictably, and it’s never invasive. In addition, it’s hardy to 20°F, allowing to be grown in much of California.
Sounds like the perfect plant for many situations, doesn’t it? Well, it is. It’s eternally popular, both with landscape designers and homeowners. Everybody seems to love it—except me. Don’t get me wrong: I like the leaves and I like the flowers, but I just cannot stand the smell.
I’m talking about society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea). While it isn’t in the immediate garlic and onion family (Allium), it is a distant cousin. The funny thing is that I do love onions and garlic—to me, they taste and smell fresh and, well, alive. Society garlic, on the other hand, smells like garlic that has died and started to rot. It would be the perfect scent profile for vampires if only they liked garlic. But maybe Bram Stoker got it all wrong, and they do.
|Society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) featuring prominently in the landscaping of a condo complex up the street from us|
|Society garlic looks beautiful mixed in with lavenders|
|Close-up of flower|
Courtesy of Wikimedia
We all have our personal likes and dislikes, and as much I’m trying to make myself like society garlic, I just can’t get over the smell. Give me lilacs and lavenders any day!