Hyacinth bouquet! Plant up a pot now and you can have some fragrant, vibrant blooms in time for Christmas
22:08 GMT, 28 September 2012
Hyacinths are easy to grow, relatively cheap, come in a range of beautiful colours, and have the most heavenly scent
Whenever I feel gloomy about winter being just round the corner, after barely a hint of summer, I cheer myself up with the thought that soon it will be hyacinth season.
Of all the spring bulbs, these are my undoubted favourite. Hyacinths are easy to grow, relatively cheap, come in a range of beautiful colours, and have the most heavenly scent.
What more could anyone want from a plant
Now is the time to buy hyacinth bulbs. Unlike tulips, hyacinths – which are happy in sun or dappled shade – should be planted fairly early on in autumn so they can develop a good root system.
Be choosy about your bulbs; with hyacinths, bigger is better, and reject any with even a hint of squishiness or mould.
Don’t stint on numbers, as hyacinths look best planted in big clumps in the garden, and they can often be bought for little more than 50p a bulb.
As hyacinths will flower year after year – although the flowers will gradually get smaller with age – they represent very good value.
The classic hyacinth is blue, and there are some wonderfully intense shades available. Try lilac blue ‘Delft Blue’, violet blue ‘Peter Stuyvesant’, or the more purple ‘Blue Jacket’.
‘City of Haarlem’ is a charming buttery-yellow. There are some good pinks, like ‘Pink Pearl’ and the soft rosy ‘Ibis’. White hyacinths are guaranteed to go with any colour combination – try ‘Carnegie’ or ‘White Pearl’.
But my top choice is ‘Woodstock’, which is a colour that could best be described as beetroot.
If you want hyacinths in flower for Christmas, you need to grow them indoors. The trick is to buy bulbs for forcing, which means they have been specially prepared so they think spring is imminent.
Plant them as soon as possible in a pot filled with well-drained bulb compost, with the nose of the bulb sitting just above the level of the soil. Place the pots somewhere cool and dark, where the temperature does not rise above 7C-9C – a cellar or shed is ideal.
After 8 to 12 weeks, depending on the variety, the shoots will be 2cm-3cm (1in) high, and you can then move the hyacinths into a cool, well-lit room. Once the flower spikes are starting to show some colour, bring the pot into a warm room and you will soon have hyacinths perfuming your house.
You can also grow Christmas hyacinths in water. Place the bulb in a container which is the same diameter as the bulb, and fill it until the water comes to just below the level of the bulb, making sure the water doesn’t touch the hyacinth.
Then treat it the same way as forced bulbs growing in soil.
Suppliers: www.peternyssen.com, www.blombulbs.com and www.dejager.co.uk