Hyacinths provide a welcome splash of colour in March and April.
They are easy to grow and add scent as well as colour to the garden. Most varieties really are strongly scented, so much so that some people find the scent over-powering if they are grown as an indoor plant.
In smaller gardens, hyacinths may be planted in a mixed border alongside shrubs and herbaceous perennials, in containers, or as part of a spring bedding display where they look good when combined with taller growing tulips. Either combine them with tulips that flower at the same time, or, better in small gardens, use later flowering tulips such as the double late/peony flowered or multi-flowered groups which will provide colour after the hyacinths have finished flowering. Choose the varieties carefully and flowering can spread from March into May. Spring bedding plants such as over-wintered pansies, whose flowering peaks in spring, and polyanthus primulas, also make suitable partners.
Hyacinths fall into three categories. Most of us will be familiar with the single flowered varieties which produce a single flower stalk per bulb. Early varieties will come into bloom in March given a mild spring. The double flowered hyacinths also produce a single flower stalk per bulb, but their flowers have more petals. Given a cool spring, these early flowering varieties will also provide a longer display than later flowerers, when temperatures are higher and blooms fade faster.
Doubles were very popular for glasshouse displays; their fuller flowers provide more impact, but they can sometimes be more susceptible to damage from wind and rain when grown outdoors.
The final group produce a few flower stalks per bulb and are listed as either multi-flora hyacinths or festival hyacinths. Flowers are white, pink or blue. These kinds are better suited to naturalising.
Hyacinth bulbs can be planted this month. Take care, as the bulbs may aggravate skin allergies when handled, so wear gloves. Plant them about 4 to 5inches/10 to 13cms deep in any well drained fertile soil. Full sun will give best results. When flowering has finished and the blooms start to turn brown, cut off the flower stalk. It is possible to save bulbs for the following year, but flowering performance will be no where near as good as in the first year.
Jobs for the month
In addition to hyacinths, tulips, crocus and narcissi bulbs can also be planted. Try something different such as alliums (ornamental onions) or eremurus (foxtail lilies). We grow the giant foxtail lily Eremurus robustus in Clumber’s walled garden – a real show stopper producing 8feet/2.4m tall salmon pink flower spikes in June.
The garden centres are promoting autumn as a good time for planting. Hardy container grown shrubs and perennials can be planted into well prepared soil. At this time of year, soil is moist and warm, enabling roots to continue growing before the onset of cold winter weather.
If the weather stays mild, grass will continue growing and need cutting. Raise the height of cut on your mower to just over 1 inch/3cms. Collect and compost grass clippings and sweep off and compost fallen tree leaves.