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Hyacinth Harvest

Sunday, November 27, 2011

All winter long and as soon as they are available I buy potted hyacinth bulbs at the grocery store. White. All shades of pink. All shades of mauve and blue and purple. From January through April, there are generally hyacinths in my house. Sometimes a single bulb, often a pot of three bulbs, occasionally one of the large pots of five or more bulbs. It always amazes me that buying potted bulbs during the winter months is no more expensive than buying naked bulbs in the fall for direct planting into the garden.

Don't much care for the standard "Christmas" plants -- poinsettias in particular leave me cold, whether traditional red or the newer white, pink and marbled types. They last for ever, they can't with reasonable effort be brought back to rebloom, they silently reproach me if I throw them out . . . Cyclamen are a bit better (glorious butterfly shape hovering above the elegant foliage) but like poinsettias have no scent. Azaleas ditto.

Whereas the hyacinths (like the narcissus I potted up last weekend, which are growing half an inch every day) help me "set out to meet the spring". And smell glorious, scenting the whole house. And each floret is such a beautiful shape . . . remember "hyacinthine curls" on Roman Republican portrait busts? The only disadvantage of hyacinths has been their tendency to flop over, top heavy . . . but the newer cultivars seem to have that problem solved. And (unlike some contemporary rose variants, which have focused on repeat blooming at the expense of perfume) without any loss of scent or shape or colour.

Once my hyacinths have bloomed and faded week by winter week, I cut off the spent flower heads and water copiously, leaving the foliage which will renew the bulb's vigour, then put the pot down in our cool, damp Victorian basement. And forget about them, until late November.

So yesterday was the day. Hyacinth harvest. I fetched them all up, two green garbage bags full of pots and soil and dehydrated foliage. And took them out to the garden for planting.

Almost every bulb was showing signs of life: heavy, solid, sturdy ivory sprouts. I simply cleared away enough leaves in the flower bed to dig a hole, inserted the bulbs at the same depth, then recovered with leaf mulch.

We have lived here for some 25 years -- and there are hundreds of hyacinth bulbs from winter after winter of kitchen table fragrance, blooming and reblooming year after year. Squirrels leave the hyacinths alone -- tulips are the preferred munch, and that's why I don't have many of those. Squirrels simply won't accept my tacit deal -- chestnuts and walnuts for them, bulbs for me. If the squirrels don't eat the tulips bulbs within days of my planting them, they will eat the flowers as soon as they appear in the spring. I've given up on tulips.

Which is OK, actually: hyacinths smell better anyhow.

Winter: bring it on! I've recycled my hyacinths. They're promising me that spring will come.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • CEHALLA
    I love cyclamen and wished they had more scent. My favorite bulb is the freesia, they have a lovely scent. I don't know if the squirrels would eat them or not.

    But I love flowers blooming in the spring, and all those hyacinths would be heavenly!
    3107 days ago
  • KALIGIRL
    Love it!
    3108 days ago
  • NANCY-
    What a lovely way to bring pleasure into your life. Breathing in the springtime fragrance is definitely heaven scent (oops I meant sent) on a cold winter day. :)
    You make me want to go get some bulbs and put them in the bulb vases.
    emoticon
    3108 days ago
  • DDOORN
    What a wonderful way to brighten your home through your cultivation of flowers...!

    Spring already feels like it's been here as we've been visiting in Valley Forge area of PA with temps in the mid-60s over the past few days!

    But yes, winter will arrive soon enough...but I'm prepared with cross country skis this year! :-)

    Don
    3108 days ago
  • CARRAND
    What a lovely idea!

    I liked poinsettias when we live in Bermuda. They grow there as bushes, waist high or even shoulder high, and bloom copiously every winter. The potted ones we get here aren't even close.
    3108 days ago
  • DONNACFIT
    Hi thanks for the gardening tips..am anxious to try that myself! Thanks for sharing and enjoy your spring thoughts..

    we're actually having a week or more of beautiful weather.. very un-november like for Sask..I'll take it as winterr won't seem quite as long now...our snow is even almost gone now..

    emoticon
    3108 days ago

    Comment edited on: 11/27/2011 4:52:19 PM
  • no profile photo CD2403740
    I can smell those hyacinths from here.

    PS I've given up on tulips too. They make me hang my head in shame every one that droops.


    3108 days ago
  • SALSIFY
    I put a red poinsettia in a purple pot in my kitchen today as it's good feng shui & we could do with some prosperity.

    emoticon
    3108 days ago
  • no profile photo CD4114604
    Oh Ellen you make me want to come out there and look at your gorgeous garden once it's all in bloom!! emoticon you also make me want to go out and buy Hyacinths and plant them all over my garden....only thing with this past summer extreme drought and sky high water bills emoticon and with predictions of at least 5 more years of drought....i am not going to plant anything.....except my tomatoes!
    and i agree with Linda....i would love to see some pictures emoticon
    3108 days ago
  • ERIKO1908
    Ahhh...flowers...I've never had much of a green thumb, but I will live vicariously through you...

    On a side note regarding my lack of green thumb...I do have a potted mum plant at work that was a gift from my son on Mother's Day two years ago...I managed to bring it back from death's door...and within a week or so it should have blooms again!!! It is a two foot tall, pretty much single stalk that I have secured to my blinds with a paperclip hook so it doesn't fall over. I will pinch it back when the blooms are done and see where it goes from there...but I did manage to revive it & for that I am proud!! :)
    3108 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Wow! I can just picture your beautiful garden with all those flowers blooming!! Would love to see a photo of your first blooms! What a perk in the middle of winter!!
    3108 days ago
  • TKADEEPBREATH
    I have a confession, I have never grown/tended a Hyacinth flower. I've always been intrigued by them but my Mom never grew one that I remember . . . but after reading your story, I'm going to look for some in pots. I'll have to study your method so I can try it. I'm excited about this . . . a new project. I think I'll collect all the colors. I will prefer the fragrant ones . . .

    I never really thought about it but I'm with you on the Christmas traditionals like poinsettias. Just can't bring myself to spend $ on them. I don't mind seeing them if someone else bought them though.

    Thanks for your story. . . as always, Jan

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3108 days ago
  • PASTORMIKE7
    That must be a wonderful site to see when the start blooming!!

    Thank you for blessing us with this blog today!!
    3108 days ago
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