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February 2008
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Hyacinths – Carnegie

Hyacinths are one of the “big three” bulbs in gardening interest (the others being tulips and daffodils) and these extremely fragrant spring flowering bulbs are worthy of a place in your bulb garden. Carnegie is a pure white hyacinth with a deep penetrating fragrance. Reblooms for several years. As an aside, the name comes from Hyakinthos – a young man accidentally killed by one of the Greek gods and from his spilt blood, this flower emerged.
The Hyacinth, ‘Carnegie’ ‘Hyacinthus orientalis’, a fall planted bulb, is one of the few all-white Dutch hyacinths, and this plant is the perfect contrast to brightly colored bulbs. The small, pure white flowers are densely packed on intensely fragrant spikes. Grow them for their graceful shape, long-lasting blooms and sweet scent. Hyacinths are great for indoor forcing, containers, and borders. They flower in mid spring for a 3 – 4 week period.
Hyacinths require a well-drained soil. If they must be planted in heavy soil, mix some sand into the soil. For the best effects, plant the bulbs in clusters of 5 to 15 bulbs of one variety, or scatter clusters throughout the garden or flower border. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep. Set the bulb in the hole, pointy end up, then cover with soil and press firmly. Space bulbs 4 to 6 inches apart. Water thoroughly after planting.
When planted in somewhat shady spots, the flowers will last longer than they would in the hot sun. You have a decision to make here. If you grow them in the shadier sections of your garden, the individual blooms will last longer on the bulbs in the spring as the hot sun does tend to shorten the bloom time. The downside to this is that the bulb itself will not thrive in the shade and will die out. If you need flowers for a special spring event, mass plant them anywhere you like and treat this bulb as an annual flower.
You can easily propagate new plants by harvesting the little offsets that develop on the older bulbs. After the plant is fully dormant, (late summer) you can dig the bulb and separate these small offsets. It will take these small bulblets 2 to 3 years to develop enough size/strength to generate flowers. You can also grow them from seed treating the seed as a perennial.
Wear gloves to prevent skin irritation. These plants are deer, squirrel and rabbit resistant.
If you want to force the bulbs to flower out of season, then you need to use a technique called forcing. To do this, heat-treated hyacinth bulbs, which are more expensive than normal bulbs, need to be placed in a dark place for several weeks to allow flower buds to develop. To make a flowering bowl, start by planting three bulbs of the same colour in individual pots. Almost fill an 8cm (3in) pot with moist bulb fibre, and then push a bulb in gently to half its depth. Put pots in a cool, dark place, such as a garage or shed for about ten weeks to allow the roots to grow. Check bulbs regularly and water if the compost feels dry. When shoots appear, wait until they are about 5cm (2in) high and arrange the three pots in an 18cm (7in) bowl. Fill the gaps with more bulb fibre and place in a light spot to flower. Keep compost moist. After flowering, bulbs will be exhausted and are best thrown away – you could add them to your compost heap, but make sure you chop them up finely.

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