HYACINTH, Hyacinthus orientali
CHIEF amongst a thousand is the princely hyacinth, one of the best of domestic flowers, one of the most surprising exhibition flowers, and a very important item in the industry and commerce of our near relations and neighbours, the people of the Netherlands. To many a purchaser of hyacinth bulbs the question will occur, Why cannot they be produced at home? And, again, a still more serious question, Why is it necessary to purchase every year in order to obtain flowers of the finest quality? Those who have seen the steps and stages of the cultivation on a proper hyacinth farm at Haarlem are fully satisfied as regards those important questions. The soil is of a somewhat peaty character, and may be described as a dark-coloured sand containing much humus. It rests practically on a bed of water--in other words, there is water everywhere within from nine to thirty inches of the surface, and hence the custom of building upon piles, because dry foundations are not obtainable. Experience has taught the Dutch growers that the hyacinth requires liberal nourishing without stimulating agencies of any kind, and that water is as needful to it as earth; it is, in fact, semi-aquatic. Now see how the requirements of the plant are satisfied by the cultivator. A tract of the sandy soil is first heavily manured with material derived from the cowbyres, and is then planted with potatoes. The crop of potatoes being removed, the rankness of the manure is gone, and the land is ready for hyacinths, which accordingly are planted. The smallest offsets require five years' cultivation to become handsome, marketable bulbs, and the course of cultivation now concerns us.
The bulbs being planted in the autumn are left to the mercies of the weather, for no frost ever injures them in the ground. But in spring, when the green leaves appear, large, light hurdles, made of reeds, are employed to protect them in the event of severe frost, which will sometimes even penetrate the protectors, and cause the leafage to assume a golden-yellow colour, giving a singular appearance to large tracts of land. But the time of severe frost passes, and the flowers appear. It is often stated in books that the Dutch growers do not allow the bulbs to flower; but that is, happily, a mistake, and one of the most surprising displays of colour may be seen every year, in the later days of April and the early days of May, in the bulb-grounds in the pleasant suburbs of Haarlem. But while flowering does no harm, it is otherwise with seed-bearing, which is strictly prohibited, and consequently the instant that seed-pods begin to form, the flower-stems are pulled out, and the flowers are variously disposed of.
We turn next to the cultivation requisite for the enjoyment of the flowers. It consists, in the first place, in the purchase of good bulbs; they should be hard and heavy. If neat in form, all the better; but that is not of vital importance, because some sorts are naturally ugly. A hard, heavy bulb, with only one centre of growth, is to be preferred to one with two or more centres of growth; in other words, it is enough to secure one fine spike of flowers; but tastes differ, and we have seen as many as fourteen from one bulb, presenting a most beautiful appearance. Any light, rich, sandy soil will serve for pot culture, and when beds are prepared for hyacinths, leaf-mould and sand may be incorporated in quantity with advantage, unless the soil is naturally of a sandy nature. To plant early is of great importance, and to give water in plenty after free growth has commenced is of not less importance. As a rule, hyacinths do not obtain sufficient water when grown in English gardens, and that is one reason why the bulbs flower so poorly in succeeding years. To obtain fine flowers, fresh bulbs must be purchased annually.
Having raised good stocks of home-grown bulbs, we can aver that their production in this country is at once possible and easy; but we believe, as a rule, it is cheaper and more satisfactory to purchase when fine flowers are required. To raise a stock it is necessary to follow the Dutch system in its leading points, taking care not to allow the formation of seed, and being careful also to promote a free leaf-growth after the flowering by regular and liberal watering. Those that have flowered in pots should be placed in frames to protect the delicate leaves from the weather, and to mitigate the check consequent on removal from the greenhouse. But, after all, the best way to deal with bulbs that have flowered is to plant them out in odd places, more especially near sheltering hedgerows, and there every year they will produce small spikes of flowers that will prove most acceptable for the table.
When hyacinths are grown in glasses, the bulbs should be so placed as not to touch the water. The glasses should then be wrapped in flannel, and put into a dark, cool closet. This mode of procedure will promote the formation of roots before the leaves rise; and when the roots have begun to grow freely, the glasses may be brought out and placed in the window. The single varieties are the best for glasses. For beds and pots it is a good plan to have a larger proportion of single than double kinds. Beautiful beds may be formed of cheap mixed bulbs; but for pot culture named varieties should be preferred.
The hyacinth figured is the popular variety knows as Baron Von Tuyll.
Title: HYACINTH, Hyacinthus orientali Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
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