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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 them 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.
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.
Hyacinths Indoor Culture
When handling Hyacinths you may wish to wear gloves as the loose particles can cause skin irritation.
Select a good quality bulb fibre or soil based compost, providing it has good open texture and is moisture rettentive yet free draining. It is not necessary to feed your bulbs as they have a natural food source within the bulb.
Damp the fibre or compost and layer the bottom of the bowl or pot, set the bulbs on the fibre or compost but not touching each other or the sides of the container.
Fill around the bulbs with fibre or compost leaving the tops of the bulbs showing above the surface.
After planting the potted bulbs need to be placed in the dark and cooled down to 9 degrees (48 fahrenheit) to encourage the development of the root system.
Either place the potted bulbs in black polythene bags and stand them in a cellar or in a dark corner of a shed or garage.
Check on a regular basis and ensure the growing medium does not dry out. Bowls/pots without drainage holes should be tipped on their sides to alow any excess water to drain.
Alternatively place the potted bulbs in a cool situation outdoors, such as a north facing wall and cover them with 15cm (6in) of compost or bark.
The Hyacinth bulbs need to be at a certain stage of development before they can be brought inside for display, when the roots have developed and the shoots appear 5cm (2in) long they can be brought indoors.
Initially introduce the potted bulbs into a cooler room in the house to allow the leaves to green up, then move into a lighter area closer to a window to allow the flowers to form.
Generally allow 10-12 weeks from planting for bulbs to develop in ideal conditions and longer in prolonged warm periods. Regularly check the progress of your bulbs. Keep moist but not saturated and look forward to a beautiful display of heavenly scented flowers.
Humble Origins of the Hyacinth Bulb
The lush hyacinth varieties that 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
Hyacinths have long been an indoor favourite. Specially prepared hyacinth bulbs are easily forced in time for the December holidays.
In formal plantings, hyacinths provide elegant accents along walkways or at the front of a border. 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 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.