INFORMATION ABOUT SWEET GARLIC…
By: Nikki Phipps
Tulbaghia is a small genus of bulbous plants from South Africa closely related to Allium. A South African native, the rhizomes of Sweet Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) produce slender, grayish-green foliage and wide, trumpet-shaped, lavender-purple blooms that cluster into a spike.
Also called Society garlic, the grass-like foliage smells like garlic and legend has it that eating society garlic is less offensive on the breath than regular garlic, making it more acceptable in polite company, hence its name.
This is an ideal, free-flowering plant for early spring color in warmer areas with mild winters. Sweet Garlic is an attractive and very easy-to-grow plant. Reaching heights of nearly 12 inches or more, sweet garlic looks lovely massed together in beds and borders or as drifts in rock gardens where its sweet fragrance can be fully appreciated.
Sweet garlic also lasts a long time when picked, making it good for use in flower arrangements as well. It will also look terrific in a sunny garden or in patio containers in combination with other sun-loving plants.
The rhizomes can be planted anytime, spring or autumn. Sweet garlic grows best in full sun and will tolerate poor soil; however, well-drained, humus-rich soil will yield greater results. Sweet garlic plants will grow in dry, sandy soil but will not be as vigorous as those grown in soil with adequate moisture. Sweet garlic should be watered on a regular basis throughout its growing season but gradually decreased once it enters dormancy.
Sweet garlic should be sheltered from winds, frost, and extreme cold. A generous layering of mulch will usually suffice for winter protection.
Very little maintenance is required to keep sweet garlic looking good. To prolong flowering, remove spent blooms regularly.
Its garlic scents are normally quite effective for repelling pests, like snakes and moles, in the garden and especially insects. In fact, the crushed leaves repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes when rubbed on the skin. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinating insects, which are all beneficial.
Both the flowers and foliage of sweet garlic are edible and frequently used in salads for flavor and color. Flowers are attractive for decorating deviled eggs, stuffed celery, and other foods. The garlicky leaves can be used in soups as a garlic substitute.
Sweet garlic has been used to treat colds and coughs, pulmonary tuberculosis, and intestinal worms.
Several different species of Tulbaghia exist, and several cultivars of T. violacea can be found. The most common cultivars are ‘Silver Lace’ which has green leaves edged with white, and ‘Variegata’ which has a white stripe down the center of each leaf. ‘Tricolor’ sports blue-gray, white margined leaves and lilac-pink flowers. T. fragrans is a species with wider, gray-green leaves and larger pink flowers.