Hyacinthus orientalis

Everybody will probably know hyacinths whose lovely flowers gladden the heart and fill our homes with a heady fragrance in winter. They have been grown for decades since their introduction into cultivation from their native habitat in the eastern Mediterranean. It is a herb with a globose, violet-tinged bulb from which grow glossy, fleshy, linear-lanceolate leaves. These are 20-35 cm (8-14 in) long and 8-15 mm wide, with a teardrop-shaped tip. The flower stem is stout and upright with a raceme of 5-20 flowers. The pendent flowers are relatively short-stalked and grow from the axils of three-sided bracts. The perianth is bell-like with recurved segments. The stamens do not protrude from the flowers.

To force a hyacinth so that it will flower in winter, plant the bulb in a pot filled with nourishing, free-draining compost, such as a heavy loam and peat substrate, in September or October. Keep it at a temperature of about 10°C (50° F) for approximately 11 weeks. When the leaves are about 5 cm (2 inch) long put the pot in a dark place or cover it with a paper cone. Keep it like this for a week at a temperature of about 24° C (75° F). Then remove the cover, lower the temperature to normal room tern perature and the flowers will soon open. If you want the hyacinth to flower the following year as well, bring it to a dormant condition after it has finished flowering by limiting the supply of water. Store the bulb in a cool, dry place and in the autumn repeat the process of forcing. This time, however, the inflorescence will be much scantier. You can also plant the bulb out in the garden after the hyacinth has finished flowering indoors.

Cyclamen is a short-term house plant; in other words one that is cultivated only during the flowering period. However, if it is provided with the proper conditions, it may even flower again. The genus Cyclamen has 14 species; C. persicum is native to Asia Minor.

It is important to provide flowering specimens with a low temperature of about 12°-15°C (54°-59°F) in winter; they will then produce flowers the whole winter. Equally important is ample light, but not direct sunlight. Water liberally in winter for otherwise the leaves as well as the flowers soon wilt. During the resting period from May to June water sparingly. Cyclamens are also good for cutting. If you want a long-lasting display, make several longitudinal cuts at the bottom of the stem.

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