HYACINTH

P. Too well known to need description, these spring flowering bulbs give best results on a warm, loamy soil which does not dry out too readily. On heavy, cold soils hyacinths are less successful. Plant in mid-October 2—3 in. deep and about 8 in. apart. They are often inter-planted with arabis or aubrietia.

Dead flowers should be removed directly they start to turn brown, but not the stems, otherwise the bulbs will be weakened. The reason why hyacinths often only last for a couple of years or so if left undisturbed is because the soil is too dry. They increase slowly and bulbets do not normally reach flowering size for 3 years and then only in rich, deeply dug soil with a high moisture content. Experts sometimes recommend a top dressing of well-rotted manure plus damp peat in mid-summer to stimulate the production of large bulbs. This admittedly helps on the right type of soil but it is usually best to lift the bulbs after flowering, dry them off in a reserve border or in a cool, dry shed and then store them in boxes until planting time. Bulbets or offsets can be grown on but as already emphasised, they will not necessarily make flowering size bulbs and it is advisable to buy some fresh bulbs annually. Always work in plenty of peat compost, hop manure and other materials likely to help conserve moisture and if possible, do not grow in the same patch of ground 2 years running. For bedding, second-size bulbs are best as they are less top-heavy. For bowls and pots top-size specimens are advised. Bulbs specially prepared for flowering at Christmas are available. In the following list, the month named at the end of each description denotes the best time to bring the bulbs out of the frame, cellar or plunge-bed.

Blue:

Grand Maitre: deep lavender-blue. An old variety which is first-rate for bedding and can be forced from the end of January.

King of the Blues: rich indigo-blue. Can be forced in February.

Myosolis: pale blue. Can be forced about the end of January.

Ostara: dark blue with very strong, almost black stems. Can be forced at the end of January.

Pink and Red:

Delight: deep rose-pink. Can be forced at the end of January. Garibaldi: bright red. Can be forced at the end of December. Jan Bos: deep crimson with very good colour stability. Can be forced in early January but is sometimes disappoiting in the open. Lady Derby: pale pink. An old variety which is equally fine for pots or bedding. Can be forced at the end of January.

Salmonetta, Orange Burst, or Orange Boven: a delightful shade of salmon-apricot, distinct from all other pinks. Stocks of Salmonetta are always scarce but it is worth some trouble to obtain supplies as even 3 bulbs (they are rather smaller than with some varieties) make a most attractive display. Can be forced at end of January.

Tubergen’s Scarlet (Madame Dubarry): crimson-lake with dark stems. Medium-sized, elegant truss. Can be forced at the end of January and is very long-lasting.

White, Yellow, Mauve and Purple:

Laura: soft lilac. Can be forced in January.

U Innocence: pure white. Can be forced in early January.

Purple King: deep mauve-purple. Can be forced in February.

Tellowhammer: although there is no yellow hyacinth with the depth of colour found in roses like Buccaneer, Lydia or Spek’s Yellow, this variety is a pleasing primrose-yellow, making a short, sturdy spike; it may be forced at the end of January.

Roman Hyacinths:

These are available in blue, pink and white with slender, more graceful spikes of bloom and, of course, smaller bells. They are only used for forcing and should be planted in late August or early September. With successional plantings blooms may be had from late November until the end of the winter. They may be planted closer than the ordinary large-flowered hyacinths, 5 or 6 Romans occupying the same space as, say, 3 of the former.

The variety Borah bears several graceful stems on one bulb, the flowers being a clear porcelain-blue. It is grown in bowls or pots to bloom in late January. The Cynthella hyacinths can be grown either outdoors or in pots, bowls, shallow pans, small wooden boxes etc. Also known as Dutch Roman or miniature hyacinths, they are best planted only 4 in. apart.

The old-fashioned practice of growing hyacinths in special glasses is still popular. Only top-size bulbs are used. Fill the glass with rain-water, the bulb being inserted above the water level. Put a few pieces of charcoal in the water to keep it sweet. The glass should be left in a cool, dark room, cupboard or cellar, until the shoots are about 3 inches high and then brought gradually to full light. Top up the water from time to time as necessary.

Hyacinthus azureus (Muscari azureum) is an excellent subject for rockeries and edgings. It bears short spikes of bright blue bells in March on a plant 8 in. tall and is quite hardy. The white form is equally lovely.

H. amethys-tinus is another rock garden species which bears loosely-arranged flowers on nodding 6 in. stems in May. They are a rich amethyst-blue. A cool corner is advisable.

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