Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Sweet Smell of Hyacinths

Each January, after the Christmas and New Year holiday celebrations have passed and the house is returned to its less decorated state, I yearn to have something pretty to look at; something to tide me over until the spring avalanche of bulbous blooms arrive at the local flower market and in my garden.  The solution, I find, is satisfied by a humble container of sweet smelling hyacinths.

Hyacinth bulbs eager to be forced into bloom
Photo: Chronica Domus

If you have ever forced hyacinth bulbs into bloom, you will agree that the rewards are well worth the minimal effort required to enjoy weeks of delightfully scented and pretty blooms.

Can you smell them yet?
Photo: Chronica Domus

In past years, when attempting to propagate hyacinths in water, I utilized special glass hyacinth vases to force single bulbs into bloom.  After a few successes, I moved onto using larger containers that can hold up to half a dozen bulbs comfortably, producing a diminutive portable garden when the flowers have fully opened.

A diminutive hyacinth garden in a tureen
Photo: Chronica Domus

This year, I chose to use an old English ironstone tureen, but any waterproof shallow container can be pressed into service for the task at hand.  I fill my tureen with stones that I save from year to year, place the bulbs on top of the stone bed, and add enough water to reach the base of the bulbs.  I then place the tureen in a cool dark corner of my home for the next three weeks, moving it to a sunnier spot for the remainder of the time until the bulbs have bloomed.  Periodically, I add water to the container so that the roots are kept moist.  Within four to six weeks from planting time, six plump white flowers announce themselves with spectacularly strong fragrance, filling my home and heart with renewed hope of spring's arrival.

If you purchase enough bulbs for successive forcings, you will be assured of an even longer bloom time, possibly taking you right into spring.  I am about to force my final bag of hyacinths for this season and will post on the progress of those in the next month.

Please do consider the purchase of a few hyacinth bulbs for your home.  I believe you will be rewarded handsomely for your efforts with beautiful blooms throughout the months of January and February, when not much else is blooming.  Spring bulbs are generally stocked at garden centers in the autumn months, so plan ahead for next year.

Hyacinths not only provide visual joy, but are a delight to the nose, at least if you are a kindred spirit and enjoy the sweet smell of hyacinths wafting through your home.


  1. i haven't tried these, but i always do narcissus. and i think i have one bulb yet, a result of poor planning.

  2. Hello PD, thank you so much for stopping by my blog and commenting.

    Funny, I've never forced narcissi because my husband absolutely abhors the smell to my chagrin! That doesn't stop me from planting them outside, and when I'm feeling really naughty, slipping a handful into a vase.

  3. Again, a marvelous post. We have a collection of antique amethyst hyacinth forcing vases at Darlington that I force the fragrant flowers in (when I remember to, that is). One must be careful in handling the little pretties, though, as they have a toxic chemical in their bulbs that can lead to great unpleasantness if one does not wash one's mitts after handling...I speak from experience on that!

    1. Hello again Reggie. I had no idea about the toxicity of the bulbs. I'm so glad you've taught me something today.

      Your collection of amethyst forcing vases sounds delicious. You must make a note to yourself to purchase some bulbs this autumn and actually use them (and then post about it).


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