The hyacinth, with its magnificent blooms, are the pride of every hobbyist. Its popularity as a garden plant grew in the late 18th century. The heady fragrance, the bright colors, and the long spike inflorescence are characteristic features of this plant, which flowers during spring. Thus, they not only beautify the landscape design, but also fill the garden with a sweet scent.
Hyacinth flowers are native to Mediterranean and African regions. While selecting the plant for your garden, do not confuse the common garden hyacinth (scientific name Hyacinth orientalis) with the grape hyacinth (scientific name Muscari botryoides). The former bears star-shaped flowers in a compact spike inflorescence, while the blooms of the latter resemble grape clusters, borne in a raceme inflorescence.
At present, we celebrate March 7 as the World Hyacinth Day, a day when the plants are in full bloom. There is an interesting story behind these blooms. As per Greek mythology, Hyakinthos was a handsome young Greek man adored by Apollo (the Sun god) and Zephyr (the god of the West wind). When Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos how to master discus throwing, Zephyr grew jealous and blew back the discus, killing Hyakinthos. It is believed that hyacinths grew from the spilled blood of Hyakinthos.
Hyacinth represents a group of more than 30 different species, out of which many are known for their vivid colors. The flower comes in a variety of colors, which includes white, cream, yellow, salmon, peach, pink, orange, red, lavender, purple, and blue. With so many options, you can even select specific varieties to create a color pattern in your garden.
The symbolic meaning of a hyacinth varies based on the color. For example, a white hyacinth represents loveliness, a yellow one stands for jealousy, and purple symbolizes forgiveness. But, in general, the hyacinth stands for games, sports, and consistency.
Hyacinths propagate with the help of bulbs, which may be cream to light purple in color. While purchasing them for plantation, ensure that you select healthy, large bulbs without soft or blackened spots. It is often found that large bulbs give larger flowers than those produced by small hyacinths bulbs. You should also look for disease- and pest-resistant varieties.
If you are thinking of planting hyacinths, make sure you plant the bulb during fall, about one and half month before the arrival of heavy frost. The preferable atmospheric temperature for planting these bulbs is above 60°F. First, till the soil and mix organic compost in it. For planting, burrow a hole about 8 inches deep, and place the hyacinth bulb in it. Water the plant frequently, but don't swamp the spot. It's a hyacinth, not paddy!
The flowers bloom during spring, around the months of March and April. After the blooming season is over, trim the flower stalk at the base, while retaining the leaves for drying on their own. If you want large blooms in successive years, you should supplement the soil with compost annually. If you notice smaller flowers in the following years, consider replanting the hyacinth bulbs.
Hyacinths emit a sweet fragrance, and so are used to make perfumes and are planted commercially for this purpose. They are also popularly sold as cut flowers. So, if you have hyacinth flowers in the garden, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy their heady fragrance inside the house. You can cut the flowering stalk at the base and maintain them in the same way as you do for other regularly cut flowers.