Hyacinth, Dutch hyacinth,
Common hyacinth, Garden hyacinth
Hyacinth inflorescences comprise fragrant, waxy bell-shaped florets (called bells) in large spikes on the upper 4 to 6 inches of thick, fleshy and leafless stems (scapes), which range from 8 to 12 inches in length. Cut hyacinths typically bear 60 to 70 florets.
Hyacinths are available in a range of pinks (pale pink to hot pink), blues (light blue to dark blue and blue-violet), and violets (lavender to dark purple) as well as carmine/red, salmon/peach/apricot, white/ivory and yellow.
Cut hyacinths typically last three to seven days at the consumer level, depending on their care, their maturity at the time of sale and the environmental conditions in which they’re displayed. These flowers should be sold within two days of arrival in your department.
Cut hyacinths are available from about November through May from both domestic and foreign growers.
Unpack hyacinths immediately upon their arrival. Remove all stem bindings (usually rubber bands or tape) as well as any loose leaves. Then thoroughly rinse the stems under lukewarm running water to remove any sand or silt from the stems.
The latest data suggest that hyacinth stems should not be recut. In Holland, for example, hyacinths are harvested with their bulbs attached; the bulbs are later removed by a “coring” procedure. This means that the lowest part of a hyacinth stem (basal plate) is the center interior of the bulb. Research shows that leaving the basal plates intact improves water uptake and will extend flower vase life. If you choose to recut hyacinth stems during processing, remove as little of the stem as possible—preferably no more than 1/8 inch.
HYDRATION AND NUTRITION
For best results, place hyacinths into a flower-food solution formulated especially for bulb flowers. The solution level should be relatively shallow—2 to 3 inches deep. When these flowers are removed from their bulbs, they experience hormone imbalances, and bulb-flower foods contain—in addition to the ingredients in standard flower-food solutions—“replacement” hormones. They also have a lower concentration of sugar, which can aggravate leaf yellowing. If using a bulb-flower-specific solution is not possible, place hyacinths into a standard flower-food solution. Whichever flower-food solution you use, prepare it with cold nonfluoridated water.
After processing hyacinths, immediately place them into a floral refrigerator at 35 F to 41 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before selling or arranging them. Except for design time, keep these flowers refrigerated until sold or delivered. At this stage, some care and handling experts recommend wrapping these flowers in damp paper or placing them into sleeves to encourage straight stems. In any case, position them upright in their storage containers.
For maximum vase life at the consumer level and to reduce the chance of chill damage caused by prolonged refrigeration, sell cut hyacinths within two days of receipt.
Change the bulb-flower-food solution every day, and advise customers to do the same.
Cut hyacinths are not particularly sensitive to ethylene gas; however, always take precautions to keep ethylene levels as low as possible.
Inform customers that leaving the basal plates intact (not cutting the stems), changing the vase solution every day, lightly misting the blossoms daily and cooling the blossoms at night will help extend their lasting quality and encourage every floret to open.
• Because of their fleshy stems, hyacinths are more easily arranged in vase designs.
• In certain designs, support, such as a hyacinth stake taped to the outside of the flower stem, might be needed to prevent the flower spikes from toppling and stems from bending as the florets open and the spikes get heavier.
• Individual hyacinth florets can be wired and taped or glued into hand-held bouquets, corsages, hairpieces and boutonnieres. They also can be strung on thread or thin wire to create garlands, loops and a variety of shapes.
• Hyacinth florets can make an excellent substitute for Stephanotises in those same types of designs.
WHAT’S IN A NAME The genus name Hyacinthus was given to these bulb flowers in honor of Hyakinthos, a youthful Spartan prince of great beauty in Greek mythology who was accidentally killed when he was hit in the head by a discus thrown by the Greek god Apollo. The specific epithet “orientalis” means “from the Orient” or “Eastern.”
FAMILY matters Hyacinthus is a member of the Hyacinthaceae/Liliaceae (lily) family. Close relatives include grape hyacinths (Muscari), stars-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) and pineapple lilies (Eucomis).
HOME SWEET HOME Hyacinths are native to the western Mediterranean region, from Greece through Asia Minor (Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Israel) and North Africa (Libya and Egypt).
• Buy cut hyacinths when the flower spikes are showing some color but before any florets separate from the cluster and open; however, buds should appear swollen.
• Make sure flower spikes and stems are turgid and fairly straight.
• Check to see that stems and leaves are deep green and not yellowing.
• Examine bunches for bruising; browning or yellowing; or rot or mold on blooms, stems and/or leaves.
• These flowers are generally sold in five-stem bunches.
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Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network®, www.chainoflife.org
Cut Flowers, by C. Gelein
Cut Flowers of the World
by Johannes Maree and Ben-Erik van Wyk
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners
by William T. Stearn