Tuesday 20 February 2018

Inspired planting: Sweet hyacinth

Whether indoors or in the garden, these fragrant beauties will delight

Hyacinth. Photo: Colin Gillen
Hyacinth. Photo: Colin Gillen

Leonie Cornelius

There are not many plants that lend themselves to both indoor and outdoor use. One of the flowers that does is most associated with this time of year - the highly scented hyacinth. This pretty plant is available in many colour variations and shows its face from early to late spring in the garden.

The slender stems and leaves emerge first from the bulb, forming a teardrop shape at the top. This can be watched closely when the bulbs are indoors. The hyacinth is able to withstand the warmth of our indoor temperatures on a windowsill. It's fascinating to place the bulb into a glass vase and watch the roots grow into the water and the fleshy green leaves rise day by day.

When the flower finally raises its colourful head, the growth seems to pick up dramatically and you will see changes every day. The fascinating thing about forcing the plants indoors is that you can even do this in the winter. Hyacinths are a wonderful plant to create an indoor display in the months when there is not a lot out there.

The common garden hyacinth (Hyacinth orientalis) originates in Anatolia and was first brought to Europe in the 16th century by a German doctor named Leonhardt Rauwolf, who collected some hyacinths in Turkey.

I love any stories and myths associated with flowers and this one has a fascinating one attached to it.

In Greek mythology Hyacinth is a beautiful youth and divine hero who was the lover of the radiant God Apollo. He was also admired by Zephir, the west wind. In a game of flying discus, Hyacinth is struck by a disc which Zephir has blown off-course in a fit of jealousy. Apollo then makes a flower out of the spilled blood of the dying Hyacinth, his tears staining the flower with signs of his grief. You have to love the drama!

The Victorians loved this plant for scent and planted them in rows of colour. In the Victorian language of flowers, the hyacinth is said to symbolise sport and play, and the blue hyacinth is said to symbolise honesty and sincerity.

Growing naturally in the garden, the flowers will appear later in the season - the natural flowering time being March/April. In my own garden, the hyacinths have just started to show their colourful spires and some are starting to open fully now. I planted them in autumn in a small border near the house and chose a colour scheme of dusty pinks and deep magenta purples.

The spacing of plant to plant should be about 10 cm apart and 10 cm deep. I have planted them in a scattered pattern and interspersed them with some evergreen saxifraga, which gives the scheme a little structure.

Leonie loves…

There are not many perfumes that really pick up on the true scent of the hyacinth: the green foliage, the soil and the intense, heady flower. Tom Ford's Ombre de Hyacinth is a stunning yet earthy scent which represents all these and makes you feel like you have stepped right into a field of hyacinths.

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