Many great gardeners of today began their horticultural education when, as small children, they potted Hyacinths in bowls of bulb fibre. An indoor pot plant par excellence – leafless flower stalks bearing 30 or more star-faced bells and a fragrance which can fill the room. Outdoors they are spring bedding plants with a lot of merit – neat and compact habit, a long blooming period, a wide range of colours and a sweet smell. They have never been able to match Tulips, Daffodils or Crocuses in popularity despite these merits – the reason probably lies in the high cost of the bulbs compared with other spring favourites. In most soils you can leave the bulbs of Dutch Hyacinths outdoors overwinter, but the display will not be as good in the second year. It is generally better to lift the bulbs after flowering and let the foliage die down. The bulbs should then be stored in dry peat until planting time comes round again. There are two secrets of success to follow when planting Hyacinths. Don’t pick the large bulbs which are used for indoors – choose instead the medium-sized ones. Secondly, add well-rotted compost or peat to the soil before planting.

VARIETIES: H.orientalisisthe Dutch or Common Hyacinth. In April or May the tightly-packed flower-heads appear, ranging in colour from white to purple. Choose from ‘L’lnnocence’ (white), ‘Yellow Hammer’ (creamy yellow), ‘Gipsy Queen’ (orange), ‘Pink Pearl’ (pink), ‘Jan Bos’ (red), ‘Ostara’ (blue) and ‘Amethyst’ (violet). There is also the Roman Hyacinth (H. orientalis albulus) – its flowers are much less tightly packed and appear earlier than the blooms of the Dutch Hyacinth. There are white, pink and purple varieties, all noted for their intense fragrance.

SITE AND SOIL: Any reasonable garden soil adequately supplied with humus will do – thrives in sun or light shade.

PLANT DETAILS: Planting time September-October. Planting depth 6 in.

Spacing: 8 in. Height 6in.-1 ft.

Flowering period: March-April (Roman Hyacinths), April-May (Dutch Hyacinths).

PROPAGATION: Plant offsets in autumn.

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