Is it a weed or a garden plant? Garlic chives are among those plants — paulownia tree, Jerusalem artichoke, mint and anise hyssop are others — that can parade under either guise.
Garlic chives come from a good enough family, the onion family. There is one definitely weedy member in this family, wild garlic, but many other kin are valuable garden plants.
• TO EAT AND TO LOOK AT
Onions of many kinds, leeks, shallots, garlic and chives all provide delectable fare. As its name indicates, the flavor of garlic chives is more robust than that of chives.
• UH, OH
Those flowers are followed by seeds, and that’s when garlic chives show a troublesome side: The plant unabashedly spreads its seeds everywhere.
No problem, you may remark: Cilantro and dill also are prolific self-seeders. Yes, they are. And you can easily yank out the excess or errant seedlings of those two herbs. A quick tug removes any problem plant, roots and all.
Give garlic chives a similar yank, though, and the strappy leaves either slip through your fingers or snap off. The thick roots — which also spread, but nothing like the seedlings — remain in the ground to re-sprout.
• RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE
I planted garlic chives a number of years ago and became uneasy when it started to spread around the garden willy-nilly. Visions of my garden given over to this plant prompted me to weed out every last trace of it.
The plant then showed up a hundred feet from the original planting. At this site, though, against a rock wall and beneath some dense shrubs, its spread is kept in check. And a sweep of garlic chives there looks pretty.
If you are bold enough to grow garlic chives, promise to rigorously cut back spent flowers before they mature seeds if you want to contain growth. Beyond that, garlic chives are an easy and pretty plant to grow for the flower, vegetable or herb garden.