Hyacinths can be grown without difficulty provided some basic rules are followed. The first essential is to develop a good root system as this has to support the plant throughout its life. This is achieved by a cool temperature and even moisture in the early stages after planting.
Plant Hyacinths in the Autumn in a well cultivated, well drained soil. They should be placed about 10cm (4") deep and 5-8cm (2-3") apart. As the Hyacinths emerge in the spring, some varieties may require staking to prevent the from flopping over in heavy rain. The stake should be inserted along the stem and pierced straight into the bulb. Tie to the stem just below the flower head.
The majority of our Hyacinth bulbs will have a bulb size mentioned ( i.e. 14/15cm) this size relates to the circumference of the bulb in question.
Hyacinths in Containers and Pots
Hyacinths do equally well planted in pots and containers but it is essential to plant the bulbs in good quality soil. Choose a sunny spot but remember it is essential during dry periods in the growing season that they are sufficiently watered. If not the results will be stunted and shrivelled flower heads.
A Hybrid Bulb with History
In the mid-18th century, Madame de Pompadour â€“ mistress of France's King Louis XV â€“ ordered the gardens of Versailles filled with Dutch Hyacinths and had hundreds forced "on glasses" inside the palace in winter. The predominant fashion trendsetter of her age, the royal paramour's passion for these sweetly-scented hyacinth bulbs started a national rage among the French elite.
Today, the hyacinth remains a symbol of style and elegance, with the grand tradition of large formal hyacinth beds continues in many of the world's great public and private gardens.
Humble Origins of the Hyacinth Bulb
The lush hyacinth varieties that so enthused Madame de Pompadour and those which give us such pleasure today are a far cry from the hyacinth which first caught the attention of our ancestors.
Hyacinths, it is believed, were first cultivated in Europe by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Both Homer and Virgil described the Hyacinth's fragrance. The hyacinth known to these men would have been Hyacinthus orientalis, a native of Turkey and the Middle East and the genetic ancestor of our modern cultivars.
This early hyacinth was a rather wan looking specimen. With only about 15 pale blue flowers in a loose raceme, or group of single flowers arranged along a central axis, on ten-inch stems, these Hyacinth plants were valued mainly for their scent.
Whether due to their anaemic appearance or other factors, the cultivation of hyacinths faded from Europe about the same time as the Romans did.
The Hyacinth Goes Dutch
The hyacinth re-entered European gardens in the 1560's, reintroduced from Turkey and Iran, eventually reaching the flower bulb-loving low countries of Holland.
It was there that the tiny Hyacinthus orientalis experienced a centuries-long "fashion make-over," as skilful Dutch bulb hybridisers transformed it into a full-flowered garden gem, earning the plant its popular name: the Dutch Hyacinth.
Botanists at one time included about thirty species under the genus Hyacinthus. Botanical reorganisations over the years have moved most of these plants into other genera, leaving only three in the original family, of which only Hyacinthus orientalis has garden-worthy offspring.
All hyacinths found in the modern garden are cultivars, or man-made hybrids. Though the original hyacinth can still be found in nature along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, it is no longer in cultivation or trade.
The Modern Dutch Hyacinth
The modern Dutch Hyacinth, grown from autumn planted bulbs, is a formal looking flower. But underneath a sophisticated cloak the hyacinth has a humble ancestry.
Mature Dutch Hyacinths, in their first year, have narrow basal leaves and flowers spaced thickly along a stiff cylindrical raceme. The hyacinth blooms in March/April. Colours include red, white, pink, orange, salmon, yellow, purple and blue.
After a few years, when naturalised, even the most hefty hyacinth hybrids shed much of their thick coat of flowers, resembling more and more their humble ancestor Hyacinthus orientalis, a style that fits with many gardening tastes today.
The Hyacinth Indoor Garden
Indoor gardeners, by and large, prefer their hyacinths full-blossomed and deliciously fragrant. Readily forced into bloom, hyacinths have long been an indoor favourite. Specially 'prepared' hyacinth bulbs are easily forced in time for the December holidays.
In formal plantings, bedding hyacinths provide elegant accents along walkways, around lampposts or at the front of a border. Bedding hyacinths are also used quite effectively planted in close groups among perennial shrubs.
Hyacinth as Container Plants
Hyacinths are excellent container plants. Many gardeners regard sweetly scented hyacinths as an essential element in spring window boxes, or containers placed near doorways. Mass hyacinth groupings in low, basin-shaped containers are especially effective. Many Dutch hyacinth gardeners like to force successive flowerings of hyacinths indoors (prepared) in flowerpots. These are planted, pot and all, in larger outdoor containers. When one wave of flowers begin to fade, the pots are removed and replaced with new ones full of fresh flowers.
The Dutch Hyacinth
The Dutch Hyacinth is a stately, formal hybrid, a delicate naturalised flower or an elegant piece of room decor. The modern Dutch Hyacinth is truly a flower of many faces, a flower with a proud past and a vibrant present.