Friday, March 21, 2014

The Lone Hyacinth



I have a confession to make. I have never really cared for hyacinths. I think they look artificial. When I first started gardening here , I planted everything and I did plant a few hyacinths. This is one of them, I think the only one left, still blooming after 22 years! I came across it today and I was touched to see this dutiful little plant, in a less than ideal spot - almost overrun by a holly tree and surrounded by ivy - standing proudly and emanating a powerful fragrance.

I never studied mythology and was surprised to learn that the myth of Hyacinth deals with same-sex love. Hyacinth was loved by both the gods Apollo and Zephyr. One day Apollo and Hyacinth are playing discus. As Zephyr watches from afar, he goes into a jealous rage and blows the discus causing it to strike Hyacinth in the head, killing him. Apollo causes a flower to spring forth from Hyacinth's blood that falls to the ground. Some studies claim that the flower in question is actually the iris.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

14 comments:

  1. I had never heard this mythology. I love hyacinths but I can't be near them I seem to have an allergy/sensitivity to them. I think they scream spring. They do look unreal and the fragrance is stunning because it is so strong. Your little blue guy is quite handsome. Maybe he needs some company.

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  2. The story - would fit an iris better. Hyacinths do look artificial. (So do tulips!) Can't say I like grape hyacinths either - too uptight. Hyacinth colours are good though.

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  3. I remember the myth of Hyacinthus (I used to teach a unit on mythology with my freshman English students). There are quite a few flowers and plants that supposedly came from tragedies like this one:) I love hyacinths, though I prefer the standard purple ones to some of the other colors that look more artificial to me.

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  4. I'm with you. Though beautiful, and I like them from afar, they have that fake look. And I can't bring them indoors because one bloom is strong enough to run me out of a room.

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  5. I think the flower looks charming, Phillip.

    Do hyacinths attract any bees or other beneficials in your garden?

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  6. My Mom used to have a lot of hyacinths when I was a little kid. I really believed they were plastic! :O)

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  7. When Hyacinthus died, Apollo created the hyacinth flower out of the blood of his slain lover, and his tears inscribed the flower petals with the letters άί άί, (meaning alas) so that the cry of woe might for evermore have existence on the earth. So the flower became associated with grief and mourning, and sometimes rebiirth.
    The wild Hyacinth orientalis is native to Greece and Turkey. As the English variety of Hyacinth had no trace of these mystic letters, it is named Hyacinthus nonscriptus, or 'not written on.' Oddly, it is the nonscriptus that sticks with this bulb as botanists keep switching the species name.

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  8. English hyacinths have a wonderful aroma and we grow them in the fragrance bed of the herb garden in Huntsville Botanical Garden. The prophet Mohammad is reported to have said,(and versions of this were later attributed to many people): “If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul.”

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  9. More lore: The viscid juice abundant in the bulb and existing in every part of the plant has been used as a substitute for starch and in the days when stiff ruffs were worn it was thought second only to Wake-robin (trillium) roots. It was also used for sticking feathers on arrows, and as bookbinders' glue. All you need to do is cut the bulb and apply the juice. (Best for porous materials, not good on glass or plastic.)But be careful, the bulbs are poisonous.

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  10. The very old fashioned hyacinths don't have that plastic flower look. DH's grandmother had a single blue with the most divine fragrance that I took from her yard when she died -- I was so sad when voles ate them.

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  11. An old saying: If you have only two pennies, buy bread for the body with one; and with the other, buy hyacinths for the soul. This was obviously before the days of inflation! There is a stand of pink and blue hyacinths at Aldridge Gardens that has stolen my heart. Now I want to try them! I do have the little grape hyacinths, which are perfectly charming.

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  12. I love the intoxicating fragrance of Hyacinth and I selected purple ones for my garden. I worked in the garden last Saturday surrounded by their scent. There is no logic to why we prefer one plant over another but now that you learned the myth, would you consider getting company for this lonely little guy?

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  13. I am a fan of hyacinths, forced in little pots for midwinter treats, planted in the garden after the initial bloom. They take planning to find little spots where a clump of them look good.

    I've gone out after dark to take pictures and found Yellow Sulfur butterflies clinging to the blooms.

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  14. I think hyacinth look fake, too. But I planted a few last fall just for the fragrance. Interesting story. I think there are several more Greek myths along that same vein.

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