When I think of fragrance in the garden, there is no better flower than the hyacinth! When in bloom, the flower produces a perfume that will fill the air around the garden with unforgettable fragrance that will bring you on your knees to take deep breaths of its intoxicating fragrance.
The original hyacinth is a wild flower that grows all over eastern Mediterranean, in Asia and from Syria to Persia, where it stills blooms wild.
The Dutch took this wild flower to their breeding fields in 1562, and began to hybridize the plant to what you see today. Today, this plant is known as the Dutch hyacinth all over the world. In the early eighteenth century, the plant breeders had developed about 50 varieties, but today there are about 2,000 varieties available and more coming every year.
Madame de Pompadour recommended to Louis XV extensive hyacinth plantings for his palace garden. At the time each bulb sold for $500.00--I like today's prices much better.
A well-known Grecian myth tells how the hyacinth received its name. Hyacinthus was a gifted and handsome mortal youth, beloved by Apollo, the Sun God, and also by Zephyrus, God of the West Wind.
Hyacinthus preferred to spend playful time with Apollo. Zephyrus became jealous and was annoyed that a mere mortal, however talented and beautiful, could command Apollo's affection and interest.
One day when Apollo had challenged Hyacinthus to a game of quoits or throwing the discus, Zephyrus let his jealous fury go. He blew strongly on the discus and caused it to strike Hyacinthus on the forehead, ending his life.
Apollo was grieved and vowed the beauty of the young Hyacinthus would always be remembered.
From the blood of the slain youth, he caused a path of fragrant, purple flowers to spring up and named them after the dead youth.
The original purple hyacinth has been hybridized to a wide range in colors and many shades of each color for you to choose from.
Hyacinth flowers have the truest and largest variety of blues of any spring flowers. Besides blue, look for white, yellow, pink, orange, scarlet, maroon, salmon, violet and just about every color in the rainbow. Hyacinths are the easiest of all Dutch bulbs to grow in your garden. They do better if planted a bit deeper than most bulbs.
Hyacinths will flower longer than most bulbs because of short, thick stems and the way that the flowers are arranged on the stem in rows side by side and close together. This tight flower will not blow over in heavy winds or rain like tulips and daffodils do.
If you do not move the bulb once planted, it will last for many years and usually outlast the time in the garden of most bulbs. Hyacinths will do best in a light soil with good drainage, a soil conditioned with compost or animal manure and refreshed every year with fertilizer like Bulb-Tone when the plant is in bloom.
When the flower fades, remove the entire flower stem right to the ground but do not touch the foliage until it begins to turn yellow, as this foliage is making energy for the bulb for next year's flowers. Hyacinths do best when planted in a sunny garden but will tolerate a bit of shade early in the day.
Plant early in the fall to give the bulb time to make big roots and get established before the ground freezes.
Plant bulbs in groups so they can brace each other in stormy weather, and remember groups of colorful bulbs look better and are more eye-catching than bulbs planted in rows or scattered throughout a large flowerbed as single bulbs.
Dig your hole 10 inches deep; add a bit of Soil Moist moisture retention granules and Bulb-Tone bulb food, never BONE MEAL, to prevent animals from digging up flowerbed looking for real buried bones.
Cover the soil and keep the garden soil well watered until the ground freezes. Space the bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart in the hole to give them room to grow. I like to cover the planting bed with bark mulch for extra winter protection.
One of the nice things about hyacinths is that they are not eaten by rodents such as mice, voles and squirrels. In addition, when the plants begin to bloom, hyacinths will not be eaten by rabbits and deer--and that is one thing less we have to worry about in the garden.
All the rodents and animals we just mentioned love tulips and will eat them in the ground and above ground--but not hyacinths.
Hyacinths are easy to plant and care for--and the animals that live around your home will not bother them.
For forcing--if you have an unheated garage or tool-shed, pot some bulbs in containers filled with soil and keep them watered and cool with temperatures less than 50 degrees. For the next 10 weeks, the plants will make roots and begin to think of flowering, so keep them cool.
I have used the steps that lead down into my basement from the bulkhead door with great success. Halfway up to the outside doors seems to have the best temperatures.
Watering the potted bulbs is necessary during those 10 weeks of growing. After 10 weeks, bring a pot or two into the house and watch the bulbs begin to grow; enjoy the fragrant flowers in a couple of weeks.
If you are going to force the hyacinth to flower, always use the biggest bulb you can find and stay away from bag bulbs--as they are too small to force.
Also look for the pre-treated hyacinths for forcing, in the special hyacinth glass that looks like an hour glass that tells time filled with sand.
This special hyacinth glass holds the bulb in place and keeps the bulb in water at the right level to prevent root rot.
I always buy extra bulbs and store them in the vegetable crisper to keep them cold, as they were tricked to believe that they already had winter.
When the bulb finishes flowering, toss it into your compost pile or pot it up with soil and place it on a sunny window for 4 to 6 weeks so it can make energy for next year. After the 4 to 6 week period on your windowsill, place the potted bulb in the basement and allow it to dry up.
Plant in the garden in April and it will flower next fall.
If you have a grassy area or wild flower bed on your property and would like spring flowers, look for the miniature hyacinths called grape hyacinths. Grape hyacinths come in blue and white and will spread quickly in these areas as long as they receive plenty of sun.
If you have a shady area with good soil, look for wood hyacinths, which will naturalize very easily for you. Wood hyacinths come in white, pink, blue and purple.
Just like the Dutch hyacinths, grape hyacinths and wood hyacinths are not eaten by rodents and other animals.
Like the Dutch hyacinths, these two beautiful hyacinths are fragrant, long lasting and spread in a soil that is well drained and fertile, so feed the when planting and every spring when they come into bloom with Bulb-Tone fertilizer.
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