Whilst many Hyacinths each year are sold as prepared Hyacinth Bulbs for forcing into flower at Christmas, they are also a deservedly popular choice for flowering in the garden in the middle of spring.
Pink and Blue Hyacinth flower bulbs
The range of Hyacinth Flower colours is second to none for the garden at this time of year, and of course the scent!
Sun or light shade are happy places for hyacinths, and of course they are superb in pots and containers of any type.
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made, was as a young Parks Superintendent at a large London Parks Department. I decided to feature one of the raised carpet beds as a 'Butterfly of Hyacinths' for the following Spring.
The design was carefully drawn on the bed with sand, and my choice of multiple colours of hyacinths were duly planted for a spectacular display the following Spring. All we eagerly awaiting the 'masterpiece'. Alas, what I had failed to realise was that not all Hyacinths flower at the same time -or height - some with a month difference.
Total Disaster! The display failed, and spectacular butterfly there was not! In fact it was so bad, that by night the remaining bulbs were removed and primulas planted ion their place. The Hyacinths bulbs were transferred to other beds and containers - out of the way!
For Garden use, Hyacinths should be planted in the Autumn, and are normally available in garden centres at the end of August. Stay away from the hyacinths marked as 'prepared for Christmas' for these are specifically for growing indoors. If you plant them in the garden, they will not flower at Christmas, but will flower early in the spring and be ruined by the spring frosts or other cold weather.
The Hyacinth Flower bulbs that you need, are normally sold in open boxes or in pre-packed bags. Those on open boxes are normally a better size - resulting in larger flowers - than the pre-packs. That having been said, there is nothing wrong with pre-pack Hyacinth, providing there is no sign of mildew or other rot as a result of storage. Choose firm bulbs with no outward signs of any disease. If you are prone to skin allergies, then make sure you wear gloves at all times of handling. For others, there is no harm by casual contact.
In the garden, Hyacinths should be planted at around 4in (10cm) depth and as close as 8in between bulbs for a mass planting. Other wise space as required between spring flowering plants such as primulas and bellis daisies. To learn from my lesson above, it is best to use single varieties in any given bed, unless you study the flowering information below.
Any normal garden soil will suit, other than waterlogged conditions. Hyacinths are not generally suited to naturalising under grass, but prefer open soil conditions. Full sun or part shade will be the best planting areas, but below deciduous shrubs or in the mixed or herbaceous border will also be suitable planting places.
Hyacinths after Flowers have Died. Do not cut down the foliage of the flowered Hyacinth, but leave it to die down naturally. The bulbs can be left in the ground to flower the following year, but best then to lift every three or four years to divide the clumps of bulbs and replant. Do this in mid-summer when bulbs are fully dormant.
Hyacinths make for a superb patio pot container display, but a little extra care is required to make sure that the pots are kept reasonably sheltered through the winter to avoid freezing of the dormant bulbs. When planting Hyacinth bulbs in containers outdoors, plant the bulbs just below the surface, but with the nose of the bulb just showing through. A well drained compost will be needed, and this will help prevent water logging and freezing in adverse weather conditions. Be prepared for the worst weather with a few sheets of horticultural fleece to protect the emerging flower buds.
In either pots or garden, Hyacinths are best grown either a stand-alone features, or with carpeting bedding plants such as primroses, forget-me-nots and bellis daisies. This will show off the Hyacinths as they stand proud over the top of the carpet of flowers under-planted. Hyacinths are not suited to growing with plants such as Wallflowers, for the height and foliage of such plants will detract from the flowers of the Hyacinths - or even hide them altogether.
New Hyacinth bulbs can be found at the base of the flowered bulbs when you lift them after flowering in the spring. There will be small offset bulblets at the base, which can be removed and planted in boxes or pots in the autumn - growing on for a couple of years before they will flower. You can also induce more bulblets - or bulbils - by cutting a cross into the base of the used Hyacinth bulb. This action will then produce extra bulbils at the base - adjacent to the cuts.
How nice to be able to report no basic problems. Not even slugs. The only thing to be aware of is the fact that the bulbs can be damaged by freezing conditions - especially in pots on the patio.
The colour range is superb, with purest white, through yellow, pink deep reds and of course blues and purple Hyacinth Bulbs available. Some of the better know varieties will include....
Iris ensata 'Sansation'
Leucojum vernum - the Snowpake