Tulbaghia violacea 'Edinburgh' (Big Violet Society Garlic) - A clumping evergreen tuberous root perennial that forms a clump of semi-succulent grass-like foliage to 2 feet tall by as wide with aromatic garlic smelling gray-green leaves that are up to 22 inches long by a 3/8 inch wide. In mid spring (April) through fall and rising well above the foliage emerge the vertical 35 inch tall stalks holding a tight umbel of 10 to 20 violet-pink flowers. New flowers are produced continuously through the season right up to a first frost and after flowering produce few if any seed pods. This plant is taller both in foliage and flower, and has slightly larger and pinker flowers on thicker scapes, than the typical Tulbaghia violacea that is in the California nursery trade. Like the species, the foliage has a strong garlic-like odor on warm days and when bruised by touching or from frost - more information about this odor can be found on our Tulbaghia violacea page.
Plant in full sun to bright shade in most any fairly well-draining soil and irrigate regularly to occasionally - can withstand lengthy dry periods but looks much better when irrigated and can tolerate and thrive in wet soils. It also flowers best when grown in full sun. It is evergreen to short duration temperatures down into the mid 20s°F and root hardy to around 10°F, so useful in USDA Zone 8 and above and has moderate tolerance to salt laden winds so useful in coastal plantings when provided with some protection from direct exposure - not for the strand but good behind a wall, other plants or a structure. Remove the spent flower spikes by pulling out rather than cutting to keep plants tidy. The flowers attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects yet are not attractive to browsing animals and its succulent leaves resist burning, so is a durable deer resistant, firesafe and attractive accent plant in the meadow, border or rock garden and useful in pots, for the edge of the lawn, or even in shallow water around a pond (with crowns above water level) and the flowers and foliage can be used fresh or cooked for seasoning.
Tulbaghia violacea comes from South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal and Cape Province) where it grows along forest margins and stream banks and was used for food and medicine by the indigenous Zulu tribes. The genus was named to honor Ryk Tulbagh (1699-1771), an early governor of the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The specific epithet means violet-like in reference to the color of the flowers. It is called Society Garlic because the scent is not quite as strong as the related true garlic (Allium sativum), particularly on the breath of one who has consumed it. 'Edinburgh' is a polyploid selection of Tulbaghia violacea that originated in the United Kingdom. It first came to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as a cultivated plant (not wild collected in South Africa) in 1974 and was accessioned by the garden as Tulbaghia violacea #19744269_C. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh distributed it to a few other gardens and Washfield Nursery in Kent, UK, and it would be from this source that it is presumed to have entered the nursery trade in the UK.
This plant came to the US when a plant was imported in the late 1990s by landscape designer and nurseryman David Mason who at the time had Hedgerows Nursery in McMinnville, Oregon. Mr Mason had purchased the plant labeled "Tulbaghia sp. EBG 4269" from the now closed Green Farm Plants located in the village of Bentley in East Hampshire. Mason later shared the plant with Stephen Vinisky of Cherry Creek Daffodils in Sherwood, Oregon and Paul Bonine of Xera Gardens in Portland, Oregon and it has since spread south into the California nursery trade under the name 'Big Violet'. In August 2018 the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh submitted the name Tulbaghia violacea 'Edinburgh' with The Royal General Bulbgrowers' Association (KAVB), the international registration authority for tulips, hyacinths and miscellaneous bulbs, and on November 14, 2018 this name was accepted.
Our thanks go out to the "grassman" John Greenlee, who first alerted us the existence of this plant, to Paul Bonine and Greg Shephard of Xera Gardens who first shared this great Tulbaghia with us, to Emerisa Gardens Nursery in Santa Rosa for providing us with enough stock to produce our first crop and to David Mason and Peter Brownless, Horticulturist and Garden Supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, who helped trace back this plant's origins.
We also grow several other Tulbaghia violacea cultivars including Tulbaghia violacea 'Blanca', Tulbaghia violacea 'Oro Verde', Tulbaghia violacea Purpleicious ['Hinetul1'], Tulbaghia violacea 'Emerisa White'and Tulbaghia violacea 'Savannah Lightning' as well as Tulbaghia simmleri (AKA T. fragrans), Tulbaghia simmleri 'Alba' and the hybrids Tulbaghia 'Ashanti', Tulbaghia 'Cosmic', Tulbaghia 'Flamingo', Tulbaghia 'Fairy Pink' and Tulbaghia 'Himba'.
Information about Tulbaghia violacea 'Edinburgh' displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.