Hyacinth and Basal Plates

Hyacinth are a classic bulb flower with a very passionate fan base (myself included).  They are a fascinating bit of flora--each stem has rows of intricate blossoms saturated in deep shades of blue, violet, white, pink, and yellow, each hue paired with a notable, super-heady fragrance.  When a hyacinth first begins to bloom, it produces a light floral aroma, but once the flowers fully open up the scent becomes intoxicating and powerful.  To walk into a room that contains a vase of hyacinth smells like walking into a flower shop, or arriving on the tarmac in Hawaii, or entering an English garden full of sweet flowers--absolutely heavenly.  

 Purple "Atlantic" and Pink "Ann Marie" Hyacinth varieties

Purple "Atlantic" and Pink "Ann Marie" Hyacinth varieties

To grow, hyacinths need a particular set of environmental controls.  The planted bulbs need to sit in the dark for about 14-16 weeks (in a climate-controlled rooting room, or in actual winter).  During this time, they are slowly building a root structure below and yellow-green sprouts above.

 Yellow-green hyacinth sprouts

Yellow-green hyacinth sprouts

Once their root structure is fully developed and the sprouts are a few inches tall, baby hyacinths can be moved into a specially designed warm, humid hoop house. The heat and humidity work together to stretch the hyacinth stems to a length of 12-14 inches.   

Within one short week of being moved from rooting room to hot hoop house, the hyacinth foliage will be dark green, their clusters of bell-shaped flowers will be showing color, and they will be giving off their signature pungent aroma. They are now ready to be "pulled."

You'll notice I said "pulled," not "picked."  The entire plant (bulb and all) must be pulled out of the ground, and then the outside of the bulb is removed, and the center is kept intact.  The bottom of this white bulb is called the “basal plate,” and when left on, it allows nutrients to continue flowing to the flower, strengthening it and doubling its vase life.

 The Basal Plate

The Basal Plate

This basal plate is important.  When you receive a box or bouquet of hyacinths, do not trim the stems as you would with other flowers--leave the basal plate intact.  The hyacinth will continue to absorb water and nutrients through this plate.

hyacinth collection.jpg

They look great on their own, whether as a simple, single-color bouquet or combined with other colors.  Hyacinths also look fabulous in mixed bunches.  A flower that it complements really well is the tulip. Their contrasting shapes and texturesplay well together and the variety of color combinations is limitless.

 Yellow Tulips and Pink Hyacinths   

Yellow Tulips and Pink Hyacinths

 

 Red and Pink hyacinth and tulip combination

Red and Pink hyacinth and tulip combination

  The tulips natural stretching was accentuated by stones in the bottom of the vase, so it looks like tulips with a hyacinth "collar".

 The tulips natural stretching was accentuated by stones in the bottom of the vase, so it looks like tulips with a hyacinth "collar".