I recently received some potted hyacinths as a gift from a thoughtful friend. The fleshy, glossy green and strap shaped leaves were growing strongly and soon stems loaded with buds appeared. I eagerly awaited the opening of the flowers and was thrilled that they bloomed for the first time on Mothering Sunday.
After a few days the spikes were so full and heavy of the pale pink flowers that their stems were bent sideways and I was concerned that I had not watered them enough. I did some reading and discovered that although the first blooms can be really spectacular in the second year flowers are not as full and heavy and stand up nicely.
Hyacinths are highly fragrant, bell-shaped flowers. The waxy flowers come in shades of white, peach, orange, salmon, yellow, pink, red, purple, lavender and blue. Although they are beautiful to look at they are also poisonous and the bulbs in particular should be kept away from pets and not ingested.
When the spikes are so heavy florists often just use some bamboo in the pot and attach the flower stem with some florist’s tape for support. Allowing a bit of droop though keeps them from looking rigid and unnatural. Some photographers run a wire down the stem into the bulb to put the flowers in a better position for taking photographs.
Since Hyacinths can be quite top heavy it is suggested that they are planted close together (but not too close) so they can support each other. Garden stores also have plant supports that work well.
Gardeners indicate that bulb performance and flower quality usually tapers off from the year after planting so some treat them as annuals and replace bulbs in autumn for flowering in March-April. The impressive flowering of fresh bulbs is due to the fertile conditions under which they are propagated and post-harvest heat treatment that encourages dense spikes of large flowers.
Greek mythology says that the god Apollo enjoyed the sport of discus throwing and one day he and Hyacinthus took turns throwing the discus. Hyacinthus ran to catch it to impress Apollo but was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground and died. Apollo then made a flower, the hyacinth, from his spilled blood. In the Victorian language of flowers, the Hyacinth flower symbolizes sport or play while the blue Hyacinth signifies sincerity.
“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
Written by Vanessa Lee Thomas