The Hyacinths Flower
Hyacinth bulbs are especially well known. Hyacinth flowers blossom in the spring, from March to April, and come in a variety of colors, shades of violet, red, blue, white, orange, pink, and yellow. March 7th is actually the official World Hyacinth Day.
The genus of the Hyacinth is hyacinthus, and contains three species:
1) Hyacinthus litwinowii
2) Hyacinthus orientalis (which is the most common type, thus being referred to as a Garden Hyacinth)
3) Hyacinthus transcaspicus.
The hyacinth are native to the Mediterranean region and west Iran, but the Garden Hyacinth is native to Southwestern Asia. The hyacinth was grown in Europe during the time when Rome ruled the known world.
Homer and Virgil both duly noted the wonderful fragrance of the hyacinth. Afterwards, however, the flower seemed to have disappeared from history until it was actually re-introduced back to Europe. It was done so by a Leonhardt Rauwolf, who was apparently a German doctor who had visited Turkey and other parts of the great Mediterranean.
Description and Characteristics
There are also a few of related plants—the grape hyacinth, which flowers in clusters, is one. They are tough and are known for their ease of cultivation. Another relation, the water hyacinth, has recently gained attention because of it has infested many water sources in both Africa and the Middle East. Author Luis A.
Navarro, who wrote a book on the subject, “Water Hacinth in Africa: A Survey of Problems and Solutions,” notes that, “Water hyacinth often grows as mats of floating plants, as islands of plants floating freely on the water, or dispersed among the vegetation on riverbanks.”
The hyacinth vine is a climber often used in landscaping. Because it flowers, it can be quite beautiful in the late summer; it mainly blossoms purple flowers. Its spread is about 4 to 8 feet and it actually produces hyacinth beans, which are edible but not the best tasting bean on the market.
It must be cooked for several hours when it is still in the early stages of development. Because it is easy to grow in most soils, the hyacinth vine has become quite popular as of late; it is also well-known for covering a portion of Monticello and Jefferson’s garden.
The Garden hyacinth reportedly grew so popular in the 18th century that as many as 2,000 cultivated varieties appeared in the Netherlands alone.
The hyacinth flower is produced in dense spikes. The flowers themselves are shaped like a bell and well-known for being very fragrant. In fact, in the Netherlands, there are some perfumes that carry the scent that are marketed to the general public. They usually carry 7-8 leaves.
Hyacinth, a popular flower, is named after a god in a famous Greek legend. Hyacinth was, as the tale goes, a young boy-hero who loved Apollo. Unfortunately for Hyacinth, however, Apollo had another admirer, Zephyr, who is known as the West Wind. Apollo and Hyacinth happened to be throwing the discus, and Hyacinth, in an effort to impress Apollo, ran to catch it.
The discus was not impressed, killing Hyacinth on the spot. Apollo, in grieving, formed flower petals out of the blood of Hyacinth, and thus a flower was born.
Cultivation and Care
Cultivation of the hyacinth can involve forcing, which means to cause a spring flowering bulb (as is the hyacinth) to flower in a method other than that which is naturally occurring.
The bulb must be planted in very suitable condition, which in the hyacinth’s case means first “cooling the bulb” at a temperature of about 35 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit. After being cooled, the bulb can then be rooted and placed in the home; it will usually begin flowering in about two to three weeks.
The seeds have multiple pods and take easily; however, the seeds must be soaked in water for at least 48 hours before planting. Another downside to using seed is the fact that for the plants to go from seed to bloom. To save time and get quicker results, bulbs are thus the preferred method when planting hyacinth. Bulbs should be relative to the size of the plant you want.
- While planting, you should space them approximately three to four inches apart in groups.
- The bulbs need sunlight and/or partial shade to thrive. Keep the soil wet yet well drained.
- After planting, cover the bulbs with a two inch thick layer of mulch.
- There aren’t many natural enemies to the flower, and it should soon begin to show off its colorful array of petals.
- The bulbs, if desired, can be left in the ground.
Diseases and Pests
The hyacinth bean is believed by some to contain healing properties. In traditional Taoist thought, the bean is thought to supplement and tonify the qi. It’s temperature, however, is neutral. Essential oil produced from the common hyacinth is also thought to contain some healing properties; according to some, it, “Eases tension, guilt, and self-pity.”
The hyacinth’s bulb contains oxalic acid, an acid which is found in many bleaches and cleaners. It is also used often in the removal of rust. Oxalic acid can irritate sensitive skin, and so gloves must be worn when dealing with the flower.
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