Sunday, December 20, 2009

Up from the dungeon with the hyacinths


Part of my strategy for maintaining some semblance of gardening activity during the frigid months revolves around bulb forcing, which I’ve discussed here many times. But it’s always a new adventure, because I deliberately choose the stranger varieties of hyacinths: this year I have Raphael and Prince of Love, as well as the standbys Crystal Palace and City of Haarlem. City of Haarlem is probably one of the most reliable forcers, second only to Carnegie in my experience.

There is surprising variety among the cultivars. I’ve had terrible luck with Chestnut Flower, a pale pink, and some of the blue ones can be picky. The Prince of Love bulbs are huge and many have sprouts coming from the bottom. You can actually see some in the bulb at far left on the middle shelf, above. This means … I have no idea. Time will tell.

It may seem a touch early to take the bulbs from the root cellar, but they have been there 10 weeks, and are well-rooted—roots are coming out of the bottom of all the pots and are nicely filling all the vases. This is why I like to chill the traditional way, rather than chill the bulbs in the fridge separately, as many do. That’s a good method, but I like the old school way, and I may as well get some use out of our capacious but creepy basement.

I'd agree with many that hyacinths aren't at their highest and best use in the outdoor garden. If they're upright, they look sort of stiff and stubby, but usually they flop over. The more loosely-flowering Spanish hyacinths (hyacinthoides hispanica) work much better in the perennial border. Maybe that's why some bulb sellers say hyacinths aren't as popular as they should be.


For indoor forcing though, hyacinths are wonderful. They have what I find to be a light, fresh fragrance and it's easier to keep them upright. And they are a wonderful respite in February when they bloom.

17 comments:

Nell Jean said...

Hyacinths have a bad reputation. I have much better luck with hyacinths than tulips, chilled and planted out.

I have a blue that's farther along than a white chilled and then placed in hyacinth vases -- both with no name. I bought mixed and sorted the bulbs by color. Most went into the ground.

Little bamboo stakes take care of any floppers.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Your vases are all so beautiful, it's hard to choose a favorite. You've influenced me to buy my first hyacinth vase, although my hyacinth bulb this year is in a pot with 3 Tulip bulbs. We'll see how well that works.

Randy Emmitt said...

Just found your blog and have enjoyed reading this tonight!
I have had two different Hyacinths and have added I think 5 more this fall. I never had any problem with them. I grow them for the fragrance mostly.

Kylee from Our Little Acre said...

I've never forced hyacinths, only planted them outside. I added a couple different ones this fall, along with my favorite, 'Woodstock.' One of the new ones is a feathery looking thing. I forget the name at the moment. Be sure to post pics when your indoors ones bloom!

rambleonrose said...

I'm hoping for good results with my forced hyacinths! I agree that their fragrance is wonderful. It's second only to lilac as my favorite flower scent.

EAL said...

Thanks MMD. Kylee, I wonder if you got Raphael, which I would characterize as shaggy. I grew that last year too. It forced pretty well.

A Girl & Her Garden said...

Very cool. I am loving all of the vases. I have some tempermental paperwhites that are teasing me right now, but I have a feeling they will shape up, soon! :)

Kylee from Our Little Acre said...

Sorry...I just looked at my order to see what it was, and it was a grape hyacinth - a Muscari (plumosum). Not a true hyacinth, but pretty all the same. :-) Here's a link to it: http://www.bluestoneperennials.com/b/bp/BMUPL.html

Cindy McMorris Tournier said...

I can't remember if I ordered some hyacinth bulbs pre-chilled from Brent & Becky's. I need to go look at my order!

Carol said...

I see that many of my Swedish blogging friends force Hyacinths for the holidays. Your containers all look lovely ... did you have your bulbs in water while in your basement chilling? Looks like you will have tons of blooms in a month or so. Happy Holidays! Carol

EAL said...

Yes, I chill them with the water. That is the traditional method and I like to see the roots grow down when I check on them periodically.

Anonymous said...

I'm lazy. I buy them in bloom in February at the supermarket, enjoy their fragrance on the windowsill, then stick them in the garden. They may skip a year, but they rebloom eventually.

I buy them for the fragrance and the poem

"If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves
alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed the soul"
- Muslihuddin Sadi,
13th Century Persian Poet

If I wanted special colors, I'd order bulbs, but I'm partial to the sunny yellows, and those are always available in pots.

Deirdre

Gail said...

You do have beautiful hyacinth vases! I think you're right EAL...they do work very well as forced plantings....I didn't notice you could order pre-cooled bulbs from B&B! gail

helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence said...

Merry Christmas Eliz! I have enjoyed your post this past year and look forwarding to reading more in 2010. H

Rose said...

I love hyacinths, but all mine are outdoor bulbs. Maybe next year I'll try a few forced bulbs indoors. Can't wait to see your blooms!

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Elizabeth!

thewritegardener said...

I'd like to know how much forcing is goin on around here. I've never done it, and it'd be safe to say I've not given it much attention as a topic for any of my weekly newspaper columns over the past 7 years. I've never even been asked about it at any talks or MG meetings. This makes me wonder if it's just not done in these parts. Is it too much like work I wonder?

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Looking forward to february, but in the meantime...happy Christmas to you and yours from me and mine!