Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hooray for Hyacinths

Ah Spring! It is nearly upon us and with it comes (and goes) one of our favorite fragrant flowers, hyacinths. They began popping up around the shop in December, showing off their little trumpeting blooms and scenting the air with a heavenly old fashioned perfume. Sure, as a cut flower they aren't the easiest to work with... they're short and squatty and have a limited vase life (about 5-7 days), but who cares!?! They simply look too pretty and smell too wonderful to ignore them. Even better, they are a great bulb plant, adding to their longevity and enjoy-ability. Since they're typically only around until April (they prefer the cooler weather) we better enjoy them while we can!

Around our shops we dabble in both cut hyacinths and thousands of potted hyacinths. They are one of our most popular items at Easter time, enjoyed by all... well, almost all. There is a group of folks a bit more sensitive to hyacinth's strong scent and sappy blooms and bulbs, causing mild rashes and respiratory irritation. If that's you, please enjoy these beautiful blooms from afar only; everyone else, let's get up close and personal. 

Florets beginning to open.
When selecting hyacinths, choose flowers that have some of the bottom florets beginning to open, while the upper blooms are still closed. This will ensure that the entire stalk will bloom properly and that you don't have a bad bulb. The exception to this rule is when you want the maximum affect of the flower right away, say for instance a Spring party, then go for full bloom. Also look for stems with dark green foliage that stand firmly upright. 

Burgundy hyacinth.
Hyacinths come in many varieties and are typically available in colors like white, pink, lavender, blue and purple, but less common ones are available as well, such as hot pink and burgundy. We recommend sticking to the common varieties, they tend to be the best performers while the others can be more difficult to care for and not as long lasting. 

Basal plate.
To care for your cut hyacinths simply provide them with cool clear water. Do not let the flowers fall below the water's surface, as this could cause extra bacteria production, reducing the longevity of the blooms. A floral food formulated specifically for bulb plants may also add to their vase life; however, hyacinths do not show a particular affinity for it. If the basal plate (the spot at the bottom of the stem that looks as though it had roots) is present that's great, don't remove it, it will lengthen the life of your blooms! Unfortunately, many suppliers do not leave the basal plate intact, so if this is absent from your stem, simply give your flower a fresh cut under running water with a clean sharp knife, about one inch from the bottom, and place it directly into your container full of water. Keep your pretty flowers in a cool place away from sunlight, heat and drafts and enjoy. 

Your potted hyacinths prefer a location similar to their cut flower counterparts, cool, no heat or drafts, but you should choose a place with bright indirect sunlight. They come planted in sandy soil to allow for adequate drainage (put a dish under it unless you want a mess on your hands) and should be watered every few days. Enjoy your pretty blooms while they last and afterward you can plant them in your garden and they may bloom next season (forced bulbs will often not reflower planted outdoors, but it's worth a shot) or just add them to your compost pile. 

Apollo & Hyacinthus
If you aren't already enamored with hyacinths, perhaps this love story will entreat you... The name hyacinth may be derived from Greek mythology, named for Hyacinthus, a young Spartan so beautiful that he was loved by both Zephyrus, the west wind, and the God Apollo. Zephyrus was so jealous of Hyacinthus' affections for Apollo that one day, when they were throwing the discus, Zephyrus caused Apollo's throw to veer off course and strike Hyacinthus in the head. Rather then allowing Hades to take him to the underworld, Apollo transformed him into beautiful flowers... perhaps hyacinths. 

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