What is Paradise? But a Garden, an Orchard of Trees and Herbs, full of pleasure, and nothing there but delights. ~William Lawson, 1618
Spring brings so many bulbs that are senses are overwhelmed with a kaleidoscope of colors and the heady perfume creating a dizzying effect. In the mix of these spring blooms, rises a simple but amazing herb that has a distinctive fragrance and a simple look. It is an incredible performer standing up to cold raw days. And when the warmer breezes blow in, lovely pompom blooms are revealed as the paper covering is peeled back. Of course I am talking about chives or Allium schoenoprasum.
I love the onion smell that comes from brushing against the early chive growth as I am passing through the garden surveying and weeding. Chives are another standout herb in any garden. I am linking in once again with [email protected]Elephant’s Eye on False Bay for her meme, Dozen for Diana, as I profile this wonderful herb. I am also linking in early with [email protected]May Dream Gardens for Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day on the 15th.
Allium schoenoprasum or chives, belongs to the large genus Allium which is part of the Amaryllidaceae or the Amaryllis family. Garlic, leeks and shallots are also part of this group. This perennial is native to Europe, Asia and North America. And A. schoenoprasum is the only species of Allium that is said to be native to both the New World and the Old. It is found throughout the northern hemisphere, and the native plants found in North America are classified as A. schoenoprasum var. sibiricum or wild chives.
Allium schoenoprasum grows wild in Greece and Italy. So it is no surprise that it gets its name from the Greek skhoínos (sedge) and práson (leek). I can see the Greek name in the plant as it resembles a smaller sedge or a leek.
The English name, chives, comes from the French word cive, or from the Latin word for onion, cepa.
Chives are a bulb-forming perennial plant, growing to 1-2 feet tall. The bulbs grow in dense clusters from the roots. The leaves are thin, tubular and grass-like. The flowers are pale purple and star-shaped and appear from April to June.I think the flower resembles a clover flower. The seeds that form mature in summer.
Chives thrive in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade in zones 4-8. I have mine in clay amended soil that is quite moist all spring and they love it. And I also have some that grow in quite a bit of afternoon shade which does not affect their ability to grow 1-2 feet and flower beautifully.
In cold regions, chives die back in winter, with the new leaves appearing in early spring. During the growing season, the plant will continually grow leaves, allowing for a long harvest. You can cut the leaves three or four times in the season if you cut them fairly close to the ground. After the cut, they will soon grow again and be more tender each time you cut them. You can keep cutting until until frost comes.
The dense clumps are easily divided in spring or fall. You can grow chives quite easily from seed, and they will self-seed in the garden if spent flower heads are not dead-headed. The seeds are small and black when ripe; similar to onion seeds.
Most people find it easier to propagate chives by dividing the clumps in spring or autumn. Leave about six little bulbs together in a tiny clump. The clump will spread and grow into another large clump in a year, and may then can be divided again.
I love to dig up a few bulbs and pot them up for winter growing inside. They grow quickly and easily, and even produce several flowers.
Chives have no serious insect or disease problems although root rot may occur in very wet soil. Chives tolerate drought and black walnut trees, and are deer resistant.
It is documented that the ancient Chinese were the first to use chives as long ago as 3000 years B.C.
Marco Polo is credited with bringing chives to Europe from China, but the Romans also are attributed with bringing chives over to Europe earlier where they now grow wild.
Chives are said to have been used in Europe as far back as 5000 years ago, but have only been cultivated in Europe since the Middle Ages.
The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn and a sore throat. They also believed that eating chives would increase blood pressure and act as a diuretic.
It was believed that if you hang bunches of dried chives around a house you can ward off disease and evil much like garlic.
Romanian Gypsies are said to have used chives in fortune telling.
Flower heads can be used as a garnish for soups and salads and I plan on using more edible flowers like this in the coming season.
Although chives are the smallest of the alliums it still has a wonderful flavor. Chive leaves are a commonly used herb in cooking popular when cooking fish, potatoes, pancakes, soups, omelets and other dishes.
Chives are one of the “fines herbes” found in French cuisine.
Chives are delicious sprinkled in salads: green salads, cucumber salad, or tomato salad.
Chives are rich in vitamins A and C, are rich in calcium and iron and contain trace amounts of sulfur. The medicinal properties of chives are similar to those of garlic, but are said to be weaker which is why they are not used as much.
Chives are said to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, and are a mild stimulant, diuretic and antiseptic.
The purple flowers are often used in dry bouquets which I will have to try.
Chives can be used in gardens to control pests. One pest they are said to repel is the dreaded Japanese beetle. I will have to watch for this. The juice of the leaves can be used for insect repellent as well as fighting fungal infections, mildew and scab.
Even though chives can deter insects in general, their flowers attract bees for pollination especially of the veg garden. I have many clumps near my veg beds.
Chives make a nice ornamental plant in the garden.
Language of Flowers
Chives are said to represent usefulness and I can concur. They have so many uses or you can just grow them for their sheer beauty in the garden.
The intense perfumes of the wild herbs as we trod them underfoot made us feel almost drunk. ~Jacqueline du Pre
Come Join Us:
Seasonal Celebrations is a time for marking the change of seasons and what is happening in your part of the world during this time. I hope you will join in by creating a post telling us how you celebrate this time of year whether spring or fall or something else. Share your traditions, holidays, gardens and celebrations in pictures, poetry or words.
And it seems so appropriate to collaborate with Beth and her Lessons Learned meme. What lessons have you learned this past season of winter here in the North and spring in the South. Then tell us about your wishes, desires and dreams for this new season.
The rules are simple. Just create a post that talks about lessons learned and/or seasonal celebrations. If you are joining in for both memes please leave a comment on both our blog posts. Or if you are choosing to join only one meme, leave a comment on that blog post. Make sure to include a link with your comment.
Beth and I will do a summary post of our respective memes on the equinox (the 20th of March). And we will keep those posts linked on a page on our blog. Your post should be linked in the weekend before the equinox to give us enough time to include your post in our summary. And if you link in a bit late, never fear we will include it on the special blog page (which I still have to create). The badges here can be used in your post. So won’t you join in the celebration!!
Next up on the blog: Monday I will have a great garden book review with a seed giveaway. At the end of February is another Wildflower Tale featuring spiderwort. Spring is getting closer and closer, and Seasonal Celebrations will be here starting with a post on March 1st.
I will be linking in with [email protected]Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme. It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.
I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my most current post now.
As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.
Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2013. Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.
76 Replies to “Simply the Best Herbs-February”
Such a great article Donna! My neighbors grow chives and have offered to share some. Must make a point to add these to my garden. Looking forward to your take on spiderwort. I love it but am finding it increasingly “spready.”
You will love adding chives to your garden. I love all my spiderwort and will make a point to address how it may spread as mine I have not noticed as “spready”. I wonder which species you may be growing as that may make the difference.
They are an indispensable garden plant whether big like Allium or tasty like chives. One of their best qualities often overlooked, is their architectural form and how they lend grace and presence to a garden. Another is through captivating form, the photos produced. They are a great opportunity for the photographers in all stages of development. Your images are a good example. I admit that I grow them mostly for cooking, but have had a great time discovering all the ways in which to photograph them.
I agree Donna…that is why I wanted to highlight chives as they are overlooked for their other charms besides in the kitchen. I am allium obsessed and have so many in my garden…I added more this past fall and can’t wait to see them grow. I love photographing alliums in all their stages.
I do enjoy your detailed posts on particular plants. Chives are so useful in the garden too, I like to grow them next to carrots to help confuse the carrot root fly. Christina
Absolutely Christina. I put them along my raised beds just to help keep away pests and bring in pollinators…so glad you are enjoying the plant profile posts!
Hi Donna…This was a great post and I really enjoyed it. I am always looking through cottage garden books and magazines. Chives often appear in the pictures, so I decided to plant Chives in my cottage garden this spring. I think they are so pretty and they always catch my eye!
Christy they are the perfect cottage garden plant because they are versatile with their many uses. I love all alliums as I think they add so much to a garden and particularly the cottage garden.
I just love the flowers of chives in the garden! They seem to mix well with all kinds of foliage. Thankfully, I don’t have the dreaded Japanese beetle here, but if I did, I would put them everywhere!
You are so lucky not to have the J beetle or those lovely roses would be destroyed. I will be moving chives around a bit more this season to see if they help get rid of more beetles.
I’m a big fan of chives too, especially for their compact habit (at least in my garden) and the jazzy look of a few long stands of chive diagonal across a vegetable or salad. Oh, and I can’t forget chives with baked potatoes and sour cream! Such winter comfort food. Thanks for the history and folk lore piece, I love learning the history of the plant.
So glad you enjoyed the post and your comment made me hungry 🙂
I love the way chives look and taste and especially love the flowers. I also love my Chinese chives! Jeannine
Jeannine I love the Chinese “garlic” chives as well. They have a stronger flavor and interesting flowers later in the season.
A wonderful post again Donna. I’m enjoying this series on herbs. I love chives, and chive flowers too – both as flowers for the bees and for my spring salads!
So glad Cathy you are enjoying the series and the chives!!
i LOVE it here!
wandered around happy for awhile
and could almost smell the soil warming
really, this is like opening a fresh bag
of topsoil and taking a deep breath
on a cold winter’s day:)
thanks for the beautiful stir,
Jennifer how wonderful…I am going over to wander around your blog as well…thank you and I hope you stop back!!
They sure are beautiful! I’m a big fan of their structure and color–even though they don’t excite me much in food. Chives, ornamental Alliums, and Onions are all good plants to intermingle and line the border of a potager garden. They help to keep the pests away. 🙂
Absolutely Beth…I adore them for all those reasons, and I love all alliums. I add chives to omelets, potatoes and salads for their mild flavor, but I don’t cut a lot of them down because I love the look of them in the garden. I hope to try the flowers this year.
lovely chive photos here and chock full of information as always. we have some chives growing in our garden too… I didn’t know the flowers are edible… thanks for sharing that bit of information:-)
Happy to see you enjoyed the post Laura…I hope to try some edible flowers this year. I suspect they have little flavor but look wonderful.
Very informative post and great shots. I like chives both for eating as well as the lovely flowers.
Wonderful to hear so many people love chives Carver!
I am very familiar with chives and have them in my garden. I am however, one of those people who believe that there is always something new that can be learned. For instance, I have never thought to bring chives inside in the fall. Why I don’t know. It is a great idea.
I always cut my large clumps down almost to the ground after they flower. I learned the hard way that chives readily self-seed. The plants look like hell for about a week, and then they bounce back.
Curious that you say they repel Japanese Beetles. I have certainly never seen them munching on chives. The beetles seem to prefer plants with height, like my porcelain vine and climbing roses. Sadly, I have had to make it my mission to kill them and not just repel them (in a chemical-free way of course).
Anyway, I can’t imagine my herb garden without chives. Great post Donna!
I end up getting rid of the J beetles in a non-chemical way too. Glad I could offer a few ideas about chives and that you enjoyed the post Jennifer!
Donna, thanks so much for this post on Chives!! Very well researched and put together.
We have had chives in our garden for well over 20 years and it continues to thrive every year! It signals spring for us when its shoots start to pop up through the soil.
It is a very hardy herb here too….no wonder because it has been around for a very long time!
Wow Jim…chive plants growing for 20 years. I hope mine continue as long.
Donna, thanks for sharing this information and your lovely photos. Your blog is a great source of information for gardening. Have a great evening and week ahead!
Oh Eileen how nice of you to say so…I hope your week and weekend were wonderful!
Chives are rock stars of not only the herb gardens, but any garden.
Lovely and so easy to grow….
I forgot to ask, I have 3 varieties of chives right now, does anyone else know how many varieties of chives there are?
I agree they are rock stars. I know of 4 varieties Jen.
Allium schoenoprasum (common
chives, onion chives)
Allium ledebourianum (giant Siberian
Allium tuberosum (garlic chives, Chinese
Allium nutans (Siberian garlic chives)
I love chives, but I also love potatoes, and the two are a match made in culinary heaven. I mostly grow the garlic chives these days, as they’ve proven to be a bit hardier here, although they self-sow like the dickens! I do miss having the traditional chives though, maybe I’ll give them try again this year.
Clare I also grow garlic chives but boy they do self sow like the dickens. They love a wetter environment in my garden so I scattered seeds from garlic chives and nodding onions in the wet back part of the garden. Love to see drifts of both there and the nodding onions are native!
Interesting that regular chives do not grow as well.
What an informative post, great photos too!
Thanks Karen. I really enjoyed your blog post too!!
Hello Donna – I love going out to the garden to pick some fresh chives. I have been wondering what is the ‘proper’ way to harvest them. Do I snip 2 or 3 inches off the top of a dozen or should I cut 3 or 4 leaves near the base of the clump of chives? Am I correct in thinking you recommend cutting them near the ground so that they will grow back? How much would that weaken the bulb or should I plant alot so I do not have to worry about that. Thank You
Alli, I recommend that you snip near the base and let them grow back. It is important to grow many clumps if you use a lot of chives. Leave one if you can for show and let it grow as a bigger clump. Then you can transplant from that clump to have more. It also looks nicer when they are snipped from the bottom. I have never weakened the bulbs by snipping a lot of the leaves, but that could happen. So alternate between the clumps when you snip to allow them to recover. That’s what I do. Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks…I enjoyed your post too!!
I love chives! They turn a plain omelette into a gourmet treat.
Indeed they do B-A-G. I like chives in an omelet better than onions.
Thank you for this wonderful article, Donna! I have chives in my herb garden and have really enjoyed the flowers, but haven’t done much with them for culinary purposes. I’m definitely re-invigorated to find uses for both the flowers and the leaves this year!!
Your photos make me long for spring….
Thanks Cynthia and I needed the shot of spring too which is why I profiled chives during winter. I plan to plant more so I can use some flowers in salads and the rest for pollinators in the veg gardens.
Another great post Donna, as Christina said, you do real justice to the plants you profile. I love chives – and their cousin, garlic chives, both of which I plan to start from seed as soon as I have room in the propagator.
How nice to hear Janet. I am sure the pollinators will thank you as will your veggies!
I have a nice clump of chives in my main perennial bed and never remember to harvest it. I think the flowers are quite pretty and really must divide the grouping and make more as you suggest—number 500 on the to do list.
Oh I hear you. I make a list but until I wander and see the clumps, then I will remember to divide mine too if I have time at that moment 🙂
So I need to plant some chives. I am thinking of some things I want to do, but with my surgery pushed back I will have to see how I feel. (Thank you so much for your support, I am so happy to have met you).. Michelle
Oh Michelle it has been such a pleasure getting to know you. I only wish I could be closer and help more. When you are ready, maybe you can take a trip out to see the garden here and take back goodies. Of course I would be happy to give you some chives from my garden when you are ready. I also have garlic chives another cousin to regular chives and they do self seed a lot…pretty flowers and yummy taste too…I can always mail some seedlings anytime just tell me what you want 🙂
Hi Donna, I’ve always loved the flowers of onions, chives and those in its family, but they don’t bolt here. Do you know that we always import onion seeds every planting season. We don’t have enough low temps in our uplands to make them flower. By the way, i wonder why your link back when you comment to my post doesn’t open directly to your blog. Is that intentional? I always have to type your URL directly to come here!
How interesting about the seeds and the link back…I may be typing something wrong so I will have to look carefully next time I type it in!!
sorry if this duplicates delete it all. Donna on Andrea’s blog you are using your Blogger profile where you have no link to your own blog.
Thx to both of you…I do not use Blogger except as a reader and to comment on Blogger blogs…never knew about my profile so now it has more info including my blog! 🙂
Donna although I may not know my onions I love my chives. Mine are everywhere and I look forward to their return! I agree they are so pretty that aside form their usefulness I couldn’t be without them. Many thanks for your inspirational work which never fails to leave me feeling like a bit of a wimp….I love, love , love your energy:~))
Oh Catherine I was thinking the same of you and your special energy…lately I have felt tired and drained. I am in need of some time off from work but instead it will only be busier. 5.5 months to go before my retirement, then it will be time to rest and get going on so many projects I have been waiting to start or complete!
Chives are so versatile. I grow some here and love them. They are very reliable and never seem bothered by drought and blend in nicely. That smell is good in the garden!
Absolutely Tina…they are hard to kill actually unless you plant them in standing water…. and I actually have them in spots that are pretty wet here. I will have to try them in drier spots too.
I always love your features because I learn things I never knew from time to time. Chives were added to my garden for culinary uses, but I have come to love those purple flowers in spring. Now, I have them in my perennial beds, too.
Michelle I am so glad to hear my posts are teaching folks some interesting tidbits. I agree too that they certainly are a joy to see in spring. I actually do not have them planted in my herb beds but plant o move a clump to one of the 2 new herb beds.
Donna, I love the chives in my herb garden – thanks for all the info. I think I should plant a few more, yours look so lovely.
You would adore the drifts you can create Christine and they are easy to divide and plant.
Hi Donna, last summer I took pictures of these lovely purple flowers, but I didn’t know they were called allium until a commenter pointed it out. And now I’m learning from you that’s where chives come from. Wow, amazing how much I’m learning through blogging. I love the color of these blooms, and I do use fresh chives in my cooking, a tasty herb. Beautiful photos and informative post as always, Donna. Have a nice weekend! 🙂
Loredana how nice of you to say so. Alliums are so easy to grow and look so lovely in the garden whether as chives or other ornamental onions.
Chives are a real butterfly favourite here in the spring and I could never be without them for cooking and baking. I grow garlic chives too but the white flowers are not as pretty as the purple ones.
Mine have never self seeded, but as you say, they’re easy to divide in the spring.
Judith my garlic chives seed but not the purple flowered chives. I have not seen butterflies sipping the chives flowers, but I will have to watch for them.
very late to the party, yours is one of over 200 posts waiting to be read.
I have only garlic chives whose quieter white flowers don’t have the same garden impact, but they are delicious floated on soup. I’ve always coveted the tall flamboyant ornamental Alliums. I’ll add your chives to my Want list for the new garden as an ornamental edible with wildlife value it ticks all my boxes ;~)
(and this post is stored in my March folder for the Dozen meme)
I have too many posts gathering in my in box too and it takes all my energy after work to read them to keep up…so glad with all you have going on that you can visit…and you won’t be sorry to plant these chives. I forgot about using chives on top of my chicken soup. I will make sure to use them today!! So glad I have a pot growing indoors for winter.
just managed to get my Dozen post up for March. I’ve put your March AND February choices in today.
My favorite herb! I also have the white flowered garlic chive. The butterflies and other flying insects love them all. My husband likes to cook but does not appreciate adding herbs. He is pretty basic. But he does like chives and will add them to just about anything.
Our husbands sound similar although I have not got mine past using garlic in dishes and basil in sauce. I am the “spicer” as my husband says when we cook….he gets it all ready and I spice it!
Donna, A friend gave me a clump of chives many years ago, and now I have them everywhere. (There’s only so much chives that a single woman can eat!) I almost wish the deer would eat them :-|. I do love their flowers, though, and I often include them in early season posies for the house.
Jean I had not thought of bringing the flowers in for bouquets but I hope to play with many ways to use the flowers.
I accidently let my chives go to seedhead and spread all over my garden in VA. I like the flowers in salads, nice color and added flavor.
I had the same problem with my garlic chives going to seed all over. My regular chives never seem to seed though. I just love the smell though.
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