Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Scentimental Bulbs-The Antique Hyacinths

At this time of year, there are so many special things blooming in the garden. One of the most cherished Spring bulbs that I grow are the rare Roman Hyacinths, Hyacinthus Orientalis var. Albulus. An early bulb to cultivation, they have sprays of delicate fragrant flowers that you won't soon forget.. The most common form has pale blue flowers, produced in a sequence of two to six delicate stems per small bulb. White,pale pink and a darker blue variety are also seen on occasion. These are rare to commerce these days, but seventy-five years ago, they were a florist's staple for forcing out of season and Easter displays. The smaller stature, often over shadowed by the more robust standard Orientalis types, has led to their rarity. A cool moist spring, followed by a hot dry summer rest is the recipe for raising these heirloom beauties. Ironically, the very large flowered hybrids that over took the niche of the Roman Hyacinth are also becoming uncommon to the trade. Most of these larger forms have precursors that were unusual in color and fragrance. When you let the bulbs naturalize, they loose their club like look, almost appearing like husky, art shaded versions of the ancient Roman Hyacinth. Two of the antique standard varieties that add a special dimension to the early garden are the smokey lavender Splendid Cornelia, and the exquisite beet root purple Woodstock, along with the double white Ben Nevis. These hard to find bulbs are worth searching out and cultivating, the fragrance alone will happily haunt the garden as well as the Gardner! Purples, whites yellows and peach varieties exist to please any color palette.

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